Leila Alaoui Mural - Atlas Obscura

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Leila Alaoui Mural

Local authorities nearly destroyed this mural before a viral video rallied international support to save it. 


Leila Alaoui (1982-2016) was a talented Moroccan-French photographer and video artist known for her captivating work. Born in Paris to Moroccan parents, Alaoui later moved to Marrakech.

Her photographs deal with themes such as migration, displacement, and cultural identity throughout the Mediterranean region. Alaoui’s commitment to highlighting human stories took her across the world, including to the Middle East and North Africa.

One of her notable projects, The Moroccans, portrays the diversity of the Moroccan population and shows the richness of the country’s cultural identity. Alaoui’s poignant No Pasara series documented the lives of migrants attempting to cross the Strait of Gibraltar, highlighting the challenges and hopes of those seeking a better life.

Leila Alaoui’s career was tragically cut short in 2016 when she was killed in a terrorist attack in Burkina Faso. The 33-year-old photographer was there working on a project for Amnesty International. Despite her untimely death, Alaoui’s legacy lives on through her powerful and evocative visual narratives, leaving an indelible mark on the world of contemporary photography.

In June 2021, Moroccan street artist Mouad Aboulhana painted a mural of Alaoui in the heart of Alaoui’s favorite city, Tangier. However, the project was interrupted when authorities asked Aboulhana to remove the eyes from the portrait, which he refused to do since he had already gotten permission to paint the monumental mural.

The authorities covered the eyes, nose, and mouth of the portrait with white paint, which led to a viral video. Internet users labeled the controversy an “obscurantist act.” Aboulhana was eventually allowed to finish his work after an agreement was reached.

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