The 2016 Marrakesh Biennale Pays Tribute to Leila Alaoui

MARRAKESH, Morocco–Saad Alami and Othman Zine of the local artist collective the Zbel Manifesto glance through a foggy window, out into the busy streets of Marrakech. Their eyes meet the steadfast gaze of the late French-Moroccan artist Leila Alaoui’s Les Marocains, a series of photographs revealing the diversity of Moroccan communities.

The gaze of Les Marocains that lingers through the rainy nights and sunny afternoons is one that the Zbel Manifesto created as a personal tribute to their lost friend.

Interrupting a wide boulevard of the Gueliz neighborhood, the installation stands upright, alongside the abandoned Art Deco building housing the L’Blassa Gallery.

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Nejwa Issa: Girlhood in a traditional village

The village of Sbaa Rouadi, outside of Fes, Morocco, is one of tradition and beauty. Photographer Emma Hohenstein shadowed the Issa family for a week. Nejwa Issa, third child of Hakeema and Mohammed Issa, is exactly what one would expect from a nine-year-old: boisterous, rowdy, and care-free. However, she deals with the challenges of societal and familial expectations of a young woman, on a daily basis. This series seeks to display both her enthusiasm and freedom, as well as the impending challenges of being a woman in Sbaa Rouadi and Morocco.

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Life on borrowed land

SBA ROUADI, MOROCCO – “My hair used to be beautiful,” Fatima Fathane laments, her wrinkled hands stroking long, wispy strawberry red locks tinged with grey as she sits on the sdader, Moroccan couch, of the one-bedroom concrete home. It’s just one more part of her life that is out of her control, one more thing taken away by years of stress and labor.

The house does not belong to Fathane, though it was built with her own money. That’s because, under Moroccan law, a house is the property of the husband.

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Reporter’s Notebook: Helping a Friend and Offending a Local


ESSAOUIRA, Morocco– I thought I imagined it at first. Not only was it good English, but profanity! I looked to my left. The 20-something Moroccan man was leaned against a wall with his fish cart beside him. His middle finger was erected from his fist, his eyes locked onto me. I looked forward again and continued my hurried walk, my arm linked to my friend, Katherine, and my brain desperately replaying the last 30 seconds.

The incident had taken place just 20 minutes after our arrival in Essaouira, a fishing city on Morocco’s Atlantic coast.

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Hamid’s Bride


SBAA ROUADI, Morocco – Zwiina? Is she beautiful? The question ricocheted through the mass of wedding-goers, each pressing to get a glimpse of the veiled figure as she emerged from a large white van. Through a break in the crowd, a parade of men made their way into the house, laden with bulky plastic containers overflowing with the bride’s belongings. Last in the procession, 16-year-old Fatima Zahra el Rhioui arrived at her husband’s house for the first time.

“He’s very nice,” el Rhioui commented, grinning nervously at the mention of her husband and exposing symmetrical buckteeth.

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