Tag Archives: Casablanca

The New Islamists: Photographs by Yuri Kozyrev

Last month TIME contract photographer Yuri Kozyrev and I went to Rabat and Casablanca to report on a story about the rise of Political Islam in the countries of the Arab Spring. As with Tunisia and Egypt, free elections in Morocco have brought to power an Islamist party, the Justice and Development Party (PJD). But these, as we discovered, are not your father’s Islamists. They defy the Western stereotype of bushy-bearded, wild-eyed religious fanatics: Morocco’s Islamists are not seeking to take their country back to some ancient golden age, they are trying to figure how to bring it to the 21st century without losing its religious moorings. In this, they are similar to Islamists now heading governments in Tunis and Cairo. The pursuit and attainment of political power have forced these parties to abandon radical ideas and distance themselves from their lunatic fringes. Instead, they are moving to the political center.

Morocco has drawn tourists for centuries, and to most visitors cities like Rabat and Casablanca are a pleasant combination of the modern and the ancient. In this set of images, Yuri captures both aspects of the country.

Read more: The Converted: Has Power Tamed Islamists in the Arab Spring States?

Yuri Kozyrev is a contract photographer for TIME and was just named the 2011 Photographer of the Year in the Pictures of the Year International competition.

Insha’Allah: Morocco’s Changing Culture

We reached a vast field just beyond Casablanca’s limit. Dusty trails wandered toward the center, where they crisscrossed then extended further outward toward mosques, half made tenement blocks and shanty towns. The sun felt metallic hot. Opaque echos of a single prayer call grazed us with the coming breeze. More began to rise, until the many voices braided the air around us. I watched and froze the sprawling urban panorama that vibrated behind heat waves, until the voices faded away.

This past June I spent five weeks in North Africa participating in an art-research project called Beyond Digital: Morocco. As a collaborative, experimental project, each of the seven multi-disciplined participants interpreted a core research theme centered around contemporary Moroccan music and the culture it emerges from. I used this evocative aspect of the culture as a guide to explore the country’s current landscape, both environmental and social.

Morocco is a landscape at the precipice. At the far western edge of the Muslim world, it is both a world unto itself and a historic doorway between Europe, the Middle East and Africa. These varied influences have woven themselves into a unique cultural fabric, marked with sharp contrasts. Today, Western cultural trends, international investment projects and sprawling urban development jostle together with the country’s Muslim and ancient Berber cultures. To this is added the pressing undertone of Morocco’s ambivalent position within the developing Arab Spring.

My goal was to make a series of images which would capture the concurrent dynamics of this contemporary Moroccan landscape. As a foreign artist, I wanted to seek the edges of the landscape that fell away from the ways Morocco is generally represented, allowing the landscape to recount its story through the image-making process. This photographic contribution was one of several media involved in the larger project, from documentary video shorts to software design, each offering its own artistic interpretation, thus creating a multi-faceted experiment in how art and cultural research can work in tandem.

John Francis Peters is a New York based photographer and photo editor.