Morocco is often hailed for its stability, its position as a regional leader in women’s rights and for having a rich cultural history. But it’s still a largely male-dominated society. So what does that mean for women in the arts? Eve Jackson meets three female creatives in and around Morocco’s frenetic commercial hub Casablanca, who are making space for themselves in their craft by using their art to protect and celebrate their heritage, while at the same time creating constructive conversations about subjects sometimes considered sensitive in the kingdom.
We begin with Moroccan rapper Khtek aka Houda Abouz. In a rap scene dominated by men, she sings about gender equality and LGBT rights – her plan is to do a PhD in gender studies. Mental illness is also a big topic for her. She began writing in 2016 but rose to fame in 2020 when she collaborated with three Moroccan rap stars: ElGrandeToto, Don Bigg and Draganov. That video has been viewed 34 million times on YouTube.
Morocco’s hip-hop scene was showcased back in 2021 with Nabil Ayouch’s “Casablanca Beats”. It was co-written by his wife, Maryam Touzani, who is also one of Morocco’s leading directors. They regularly work together on projects that talk about taboos in Moroccan society, such as prostitution in “Much Loved” and homosexuality in Maryam’s latest film, “The Blue Caftan”. She takes us to the center of Casablanca’s medina, where some of it was filmed.
Last but not least, we meet fashion designer Fadila El Gadi, a little up the coast from Casablanca in the ancient port city of Salé. With a clientele of Saudi and Moroccan princesses, she’s also dressed notable women such as Paloma Picasso, Barbara Streisand, Beyoncé and Hillary Clinton. Fadila’s lasting legacy may also be the free school she opened in 2016 to teach underprivileged children the “dying art” of embroidery.
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