For the Spring 2017 season, TheFashionSpot reviewed 299 catwalks and 8,832 model appearances on the New York, London, Paris and Milan catwalks. They found that 74.6 percent of die-cast models were white and an incredibly low 0.40 percent of all die-cast models were of Middle Eastern origin. As the entire industry scrambles to be more diverse, to launch more models from a wider variety of ethnicities, body sizes and gender identities, it appears that in the push for the representation, many communities have been neglected.
Hollywood is not doing much better. Jack G. Shaheen’s book in 2001, Reel Bad Arabs, found that the majority of American films portrayed Arabs and / or Muslims in a negative light. This is in part because of Orientalism, a perspective that deliberately ignores the diversities between countries in the Middle East, which was originally used by French and English colonizers to perpetuate images of countries in the region. MENA as aliens, arrears and foreigners.
It also repeatedly confuses Arabity with being Muslim and Muslim with being Arab. More than 3 times more Muslims live in Asia than in the Middle East, and yet this false perception persists. Islamophobia prevailed in Hollywood long before Trump set foot in the White House. However, a new generation of creative, internet-connected and socialite young Moroccans are rising, creating their own narrative for themselves and for their country.
Fortunately, no better event showcases Morocco’s rising alternative cultural scene than L’Boulevard, which is now entering its 20th year since its founding by Mohamed Merhari and Hicham Bahou in 1999. Although originally intended as a competition for presenting and finding the best local Moroccan talent from three distinct musical categories: rap, heavy metal and pan-African / fusion, it is now more than a cultural festival. There is also a full studio for all local musicians to use, support for local street artists who paint murals in the city, a radio show, live broadcast and countless other resources to help support and to incubate local, regional and alternative talents. and cultural.
This specific iteration of Boulevard finds Morocco at a crossroads, not only in terms of a young generation growing up with full internet and social media access for the first time, but also at a unique intersection of questions of Moroccan identity. Scattered throughout North Africa but with the highest concentration in Morocco, around 60 percent of Morocco is “Berber” – an ethnic group that has inhabited the region for thousands of years. They represent a distinctly African component of Moroccan culture, the struggle for recognition of which is roughly equivalent to that of Native Americans in the United States. The term “Berber” itself is now rightly recognized as a derisory and catch-all term for many different groups across North Africa – it originally comes from the Greek barbaros or “barbarian” – they now prefer the term Amazigh, which means “free people“. “in the spoken Tamazight language.
The Amazigh Tamazight dialect and the written language of Tifinagh were not officially recognized by the Moroccan government until 2011, but other struggles remain, such as the lifting of the ban on Amazigh names and the official recognition of the New Year. Amazigh as a national holiday in Morocco. The complex and multi-layered identity of Morocco 2019, as it slowly accepts and realizes the distinctly African components of its identity via its Amazigh roots – after centuries of repression, contempt and racism – is fully on display on the boulevard of this year. The teens laugh happily and throw metal horns while waving the colorful Amazigh flag. Hicham Bahou, himself of Amazigh origin, proudly points out to me how the official work of L’Boulevard this year uses the written Amazigh language and thus underlines the fundamentally African nature of Moroccan culture.
Here are the images of L’Boulevard 2019, featuring a Moroccan identity in the process of being remade, decolonizing and re-embracing itself fully and truly.