From the top of a five-story building in Tangier, a woman stares at passers-by with an intense, almost defiant gaze. The fresco is not quite finished, but we can already recognize the sparkling eyes and the sweet and smiling face of Leila Alaoui, painted on the facade of the building by Mouad Aboulhana. The artist from Tangier wanted to pay tribute to the Franco-Moroccan photographer who died in 2016, at the age of 33, the victim of a terrorist attack in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
“This kind of controversy is generally debated in Moroccan society. But, this time, everyone agreed, because Leila is an icon for all Moroccans. For us, erasing it was like a second death. »Christine Alaoui, mother of Leila Alaoui
But, Thursday, June 24, it is brutally interrupted in the middle of creation. “After four days of work, the authorities asked me to remove my eyes from the portrait, although I have permission. Of course, I refused ”, says Mouad Aboulhana. Without giving any explanation, the men seized a pot of white paint and covered the eyes, nose and finally the mouth of the portrait with brushstrokes. “They will destroy my work”, the graffiti artist was indignant in a video posted the same day on his Instagram account.
As always in Morocco, it was on social networks that the battle was then played out. Within hours, the artist’s video went viral. Internet users have denounced a “Obscurantist act” towards the one who has become a symbol of openness in her native country. “This kind of controversy is generally debated in Moroccan society. But, this time, everyone agreed, because Leila is an icon for all Moroccans, explains his mother, Christine Alaoui. For us, erasing it was like a second death. “
Upset, the family, from the bourgeoisie of Marrakech, contacts the prefecture of Tangier. The next day, Mouad Aboulhana is authorized to resume his work. On the facade of the Tangier building, Leila Alaoui’s face has regained its smile and its intense gaze. “Perhaps this is what bothered them so much: this strong gaze emanating from a woman”, adds Christine Alaoui.
A worrying progression of the Wahhabi Salafist current
In Tangier, the incident is ultimately attributed to a “Misunderstanding”, officials evoking a ” communication problems “. “Do not tell us stories: erasing the face of Leila Alaoui is to bow to obscurantism”, writes on Twitter Samira Sitaïl, former director of information of the public television channel 2M.
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