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Street in Chaouen, Morocco
Provided by the artist - Jeffrey Becom
© Jeffrey Becom
"In 1980 on my second journey into Morocco, I made my way through the Rif Mountains, an unexpected Eden of river and forest skirting the Mediterranean Coast. My destination was the isolated "blue village" of Chaouen, so known because the Berbers living there tint their whitewash with blue pigment. When it rains, the color wash depends in hue, and the town's ancient walls glow an intense blue in shades ranging from pale cerulean to aquamarine.
One drizzly morning a beautiful child caught my attention. Curious, energetic, and laughing, she appointed herself my guide. Appearing and disappearing, she led me through the maze of narrow streets and markets of Chaouen's medina. Eventually her game of hide-and-seek took me to an alley alive with color and Eastern ornament. As I set up my camera, it began to rain. I was about to take cover when the shower quieted and the girl suddenly materialized again, running past me in her bright red sweater down the blue-traced passage. Later she led me to her home, where she waved a shy goodbye.
Years passed. Then one day I returned to the house to deliver a print of the photograph to the little girl. A child who could have been her twin met me at the door actually, she was a younger sister. The extended family of mother, brothers, aunt, cousins, grandmother, and in-laws welcomed me with an elaborate puzzle of bobbing and hand kissing, and honored me with Coca-Cola and their friendship. I learned that the girl in my photograph, now seventeen, was living in Belgium, the mother of two and married to her cousin, considered an ideal Arab union. He had stolen her liver, I was told, for Berbers believe that this, and not the heart, to be the seat of affection. When the family paraded me back to the alleyway, veiled heads popped out of windows, and a large group of neighbors swooped into the street. They excitedly identified their window, their stoop, or their basket in the picture."
[Courtesy of the artist - used with permission]