I Exist, And Yes, I Am Different: How Moroccan Youth Live

I Exist, And Yes, I Am Different: How Moroccan Youth Live
I Exist, And Yes, I Am Different: How Moroccan Youth Live

Video: I Exist, And Yes, I Am Different: How Moroccan Youth Live

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All projects of the photographer Mhammed Kilito are somehow connected with his home country - Morocco, in which he wants to achieve change. Belonging to LGBTQ + is punishable by imprisonment here, and may even be persecuted because of unusual clothing. But young Moroccans in his photographs are not afraid to show their identity, they personify the image of modern Morocco - changing and celebrating diversity.


Photographer Mhammed Kilito lives and works in Rabat, Morocco. Exhibited in Morocco, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Finland, Spain. Has published in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The British Journal of Photography, Vogue Italia, L’Express, Vice Arabia and El Pais. (Further - the words of the author)

The people in my photographs represent the resilience of the palm - a tree adapted to the harshest climates in Morocco - challenging conservative and traditional norms of society on a daily basis. My heroes are cultivating their personal oasis, despite all the difficulties in a country that, in their opinion, is not developing at the same pace as they are. By their example, they inspire others.

Several times I was told that these young people do not look like Moroccans. I usually ask the answer: what does it mean to look Moroccan? This is a good start to challenge stereotypes and make you think about how quickly our society is changing. We live in a globalized world, watch the same TV shows, listen to the same music, honor the same idols and dress the same wherever we are.

Tattoos mean everything to Aladdin. His body is a book and they tell his story. Everything that happened to Aladdin - good or bad - is written on his skin.

“We only live once,” he says, explaining that he wants to remember important moments in his life.

Aladdin claims that people in Morocco do not understand him:

"Conservatives and moralists, they scare me with the way they look at me and with what they tell me."

Anas says he has problems with his family. He is not called by name, but "tattooed" is pronounced. This derogatory word says a lot about the stigmatization of those with tattoos in Morocco. They are considered criminals and dangerous people. He is Peter Pan among adults, feeling lost in matters beyond his control

Hajar and Ines are convinced that everyone should be able to be heard, express themselves and have the courage to say:

"I exist, and yes, I am different, but I live with you and among you."

They declare that it is their duty, as representatives of the queer community, to organize a space in which they can live peacefully. In their opinion, change will occur when queer people take control of their destiny and become active.

Nasser loves punk rock and 80s horror movies. He hates conformism and mainstream culture. Believes that people will never accept him for who he is and that he will always be rejected. He thinks society is still not ready to admit that people dare to be non-conformists in expressing their identity. But he retains a sense of gratitude to those few who go beyond preconceived notions and do not judge by their appearance.

The struggle of these young people may seem futile to some, but it is necessary. I usually remember the news that shocked the Moroccans for several months - about the "case of the Satanists." In 2003, in Casablanca, 14 hard rock musicians were accused of "Satanism", "actions that can shake the faith of Muslims", "contempt for the Muslim religion", "possession of objects that are contrary to morality."

During the Kafka-style trial, a Kiss My Ass T-shirt, heavy metal CDs and a plastic skull were presented among the evidence. As a result, some of the accused served two years.

For LGBT + people, things are even worse: Article 489 of the Moroccan Penal Code criminalizes "indecent or unnatural acts with a person of the same sex." Same-sex sexual relations are punishable by imprisonment from six months to three years and a fine of 120 to 1,200 dirhams.

The legal status of LGBT + people largely stems from traditional Islamic morality, the names of suspected homosexuality are usually made public. At the same time, the authorities are more loyal to them in resorts such as Marrakech.

For example, in 2016 in Marrakech, two girls were arrested for taking pictures of them kissing by their cousin. The story caused an international outcry and launched the hashtag #freethegirls. The consideration of the case was postponed until December 2016, but in the end they were acquitted.

Through photography, I try to get people to reconsider their preconceptions, this is my tool to help deconstruct the foundations in order to improve the situation. I’m not going to tell people that their ideas about others are wrong, and I don’t want to tell them that they are right. I just want them to reflect on the people and stories I am capturing.

Photography is my tool for deconstructing foundations in order to improve the situation. I looked for heroes through social networks and acquaintances. Search, acquaintance and persuasion to be photographed is part of the project. Unlike my previous projects, this time the young people understood well what image they wanted to convey. To my surprise, they were delighted to have the opportunity to tell their story.

Every day, before leaving the house, Rand dyes and dresses. She lives in Tetouan, a city known for its conservatism. Randa says she has always been a "weird" imaginative kid who was drawn to the dark side. She presented herself to the world differently than others.

"I have often been the victim of intimidation and sexual abuse, mainly because of my appearance."

She had tendencies to self-mutilation and suicide. But after a long time working on herself, Randa admitted that society will never be homogeneous. She adheres to the principles in which she intuitively believes, and no longer worries about anyone else's judgment.

Salima's parents believe weightlifting deforms her body and that her daughter will not be able to marry the man they have chosen for her. The girl feels that she no longer meets the stereotypes and criteria of female beauty, but this does not bother her, because this is the body she has always dreamed of

When I showed my pictures, I was often asked if these people were Moroccans, so I decided to take pictures from Morocco. We are no longer interested in portraits of young people from Amsterdam, Paris or New York expressing themselves. We are used to their extravagant dress and ease of talking about sexual orientation.

The situation in my country is different: it is rare to find people here who dare to deviate from the traditional norms still in force in the country. At the same time, in Morocco we still live in a rather liberal society compared to neighboring countries in the MENA region, but it is also a Muslim country where there are many conservatives. Due to the strong Islamization of society, young people with an urgent need for free expression may feel isolated and misunderstood.

I create diptychs and try to link the heroes' stories and accompanying photographs. For example, Salma is a goth and loves everything strange, mysterious and unusual. She represents the ideal of beauty that is not standard for Morocco.

The second picture shows actors and singers who could have been the idols of her parents and personify the beauty ideal of the previous generation.Thus, I want to draw attention to the changes that the new generation is bringing about by accepting themselves and opening up to other cultures.

I feel that I became a photographer also because of my country, and the ideas of my photography projects are always related to Morocco. Even living in Canada, I felt that origin and culture is something that I cannot get rid of. I am sure it is my duty to ask the right questions, stir up controversy and provoke discussion.

It is my duty to ask the right questions, stir up controversy and provoke discussion. I consider myself not so much a photographer as a visual artist who is sensitive to a certain reality and wants to share it. The topics of my work interest me first of all. I don't think too much about the audience, but if they manage to identify themselves with my projects, I will be doubly happy.

Salma was born in a working-class area and raised in a traditional family. She always tried her best to be herself. Salma is goth and loves the weird, the mysterious, and the unusual. She is an unusual beauty ideal in Morocco and especially appreciates what is considered frightening, disturbing or ugly by the standards of society.

Shady describes herself as "a fairy in the land of ogres, a maniac of non-gender fashion, a mixture of pastels, blood and an alternative punch bowl." In his highly poetic lifestyle, he feels misunderstood: society considers him a Satanist simply because of the metal nose ring

Sofia says that she started dressing in a certain style very early, which is why she constantly feels the looks of people on her. For her, the street is a territory where clothes can become a problem, she is perceived as a provocation.

Meryam Tilila has skin hyperpigmentation caused by drugs, which caused her to suffer from persecution in the streets. When you meet her, you quickly realize that this is a bright, determined and very self-confident girl.

Last year, she became popular on Instagram, people supported her. She now believes that her spots on the skin are "perfect imperfections" and, in a sense, her trademark. Today Meriam works with fashion designers and photographers. They choose her because of her unique appearance.

See also - 40 most powerful photographs of the century

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