Capturing Morocco Through a Rose-Tinted Lens

Meet the 24-year-old photographer exploring identity and kitsch

In THE SKIES ARE BLUE, THE WALLS ARE RED, a visual diary by 24 year-old Dutch-Moroccan photographer Hanane El Ouardani, the young photographer explores her conflicted relationship with her dual identity with an ode to Moroccan kitsch.

El Ouardani has been travelling to Morocco every year with her family since she was a child. Each summer she would document the clichés and pastel coloured beauty of the day-to-day lives of Moroccans.

But over time—influenced by her Nordic and Western roots—she realised she actually had mixed feelings towards her Arab identity. At points, even though Ouardani felt somewhat ashamed of her Arab roots, it didn’t stop her from feeling compelled to capture every aspect of it. “From a western point of view, we’re always told that Arab kitsch isn’t beautiful and so that’s how I felt. You know those Eid wallpaper greetings full of flowers you receive from your aunts? My rationality always wants me to get rid of them, but deep inside, it makes me feel emotional”, she says before adding: “whether I want it or not, Morocco is part of me”.

Photographing this pastel-drenched series in Morocco turned in to a therapeutic journey that made El Ouardani reconcile with her Moroccan background, and develop a sense of pride for her dual identity. As a kid, she was reminded of her ‘otherness’ by a teacher in elementary school that continually reminded her of her ethnic identity. Although Ouardani had plans to become a dentist, photography eventually became the medium that has allowed her to express her innermost feelings and explore crucial topics, such as home, identity and her internal contradictions: “With photography, I feel like I’m putting a mirror in front me and confronting my identity issues”.

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