United States. France. Morocco. 50 years ago, a young woman, photographer, captured scenes and events of daily life around her as she traveled between these three countries. Forty years later, her daughter, who also became a photographer, pushed her to exhibit her work, selecting and even processing the images before tragically disappearing, victim of violence and barbarity in January 2016. Today, this woman, this mother finally realizes her daughter’s dream. Since January 19, the French Institute of Marrakech has been hosting the photo exhibition « 70’s by Christina » by Christine Alaoui, mother of Leila Alaoui, in the theatre that bears her name.
A girl’s last gift
In January 2016, Leila Alaoui, a talented Franco-Moroccan photo reporter has just landed in Ouagadougou. Almost immediately after settling in at the hotel, she takes care of selecting, among old photos taken by her mother, a few that she considers excellent for an exhibition and processes them. The next day, in an e-mail she sends to her mother, she explains the work she has already done and tells her, leaving her with almost no choice, that she must exhibit these photos. A few days later, on January 16, as she sits on the terrace of a café in the Burkinabe capital, Ouagadougou is attacked by two terrorists. She was badly wounded and died three days later from her injuries. This email sent to her mother will be one of their last exchanges, the images selected for the exhibition, the last gift from a girl so proud of her mother’s work.
Being herself a humanist, the messages through the image, it is easy to understand by looking at the exhibited images why Leila chose them. They reflect a life, now gone, a silent but living testimony of a past era. The world we see in them no longer exists today, replaced almost entirely. Christine invites us to relive with her these journeys between three continents, photographed for pleasure, exposed for love.
Beyond death, life
One could almost think that the entire exhibition was organized by Leila. The name and the works were selected by her and it is rightly dedicated to her, five years after the drama that took her away; a poignant tribute. Family photos, cityscapes, captured moments, the different images reflect a simple and happy life, indelible memories. Guillaume de Sardes, curator of the exhibition, will say that “this exhibition allows us to better understand Leila’s work, since we find in her mother’s photographs the tender gaze she had on Morocco, her country“. He adds that it is “vernacular photography, authorial and not plastic photography”. It is interesting to note that he had already curated another event related to Leila, “Fragile Poetry,” which was an exhibition organized in 2018 by Christine Alaoui and Maryvonne Lepage as a tribute to their daughters, victims of violent attacks, Leila Alaoui and Camille Lepage.
“70’s by Christina” is organized in partnership with the Leila Alaoui Foundation. The exhibition is open to the public until June 19, 2021, from Tuesday to Saturday from 3 to 6 p.m. in the Leila Alaoui room of the French Institute in Marrakech.