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Icons Of Jamaa El Fna Square

Icon on Jamaa El Fna takes an intimate look at the often larger than life fixtures of the world famous Unesco World Heritage site, Jamaa El Fna Square. The famous Square, filled with artists, musicians, shop keepers, food stalls, and many mysterious delights is the true heart of Marrakech’s old Medina. Every traveler to Marrakech, whether they be Moroccan or foreign, is sure to pass through and to remember. A cacophony of sights, sounds and most certainly smells, the pulsing Square is an, sometimes invasive, often overwhelming but always enchanting experience for both tourists and locals alike. The ‘Big Square’ is home to time honored entertainers often thought of as the stuff of legends and folklore. Snake charmers, storytellers, trained monkeys and traditional musicians are just some of those who hold the history of Marrakech in their hands. These Icons embody the tradition, the culture, the allure of Marrakech...and they are willing to share it with you for just a few dirhams.

Photographer and Filmmaker, Faysal Chadimi grew up in the winding alleys of the Medina, with the Square serving as the backyard of his youth. A life-long student of street photography and academic student of Photojournalism, he is in the unique position of telling the story of the square as both a local and a professional. This exhibit presents the icons as only a Marrakechi could. The portraits were done in less than ideal conditions – during the heat of a summer Ramadan. During the 30 days of Ramadan, Muslims will refrain from all food and drink, even water, from the moment that the sun cracks the horizon until sunset 18 hours later. Faysal shot the Icons themselves in the middle of the month long fast and his ability to engage the subjects during such a time, speaks volumes about how compelled he was to tell their story. The images were then edited over the course of the next year when Faysal moved to the United States, his first travel ever outside of Morocco. The two worlds colliding in his soul, the old and the brand new, gave way to a larger than life interpretation of the Icons, truly befitting their place in the heart of Marrakech.

Marrakech is a many-layered place; culture, religion, tradition, gender roles, family structure, dynamic pricing for locals and visitors alike all vie for position in the lives of its inhabitants. In the starkest of contrasts, the ways of the old quietly carry on alongside the influence of the new. Founded in 1072, for many years Marrakech seemed to be stopped in time. It is just in the most recent years that you can feel the whispers of the West. Morocco always been an expat artist haven, but mainly it was the just the fringe that found their way there, and very rarely to Marrakech. It is a city that, for the most part, does things the way they have done them for 2000 years. But you can see glimmers

of Western influence permeating the culture, adding yet another layer to an already complex place. In this collection, Faysal pays homage to the very fabric of what makes Marrakech what it is – Jamaa El Fnaa Square and the entertainers that bring it to life,

while acknowledging the dimension that exists in these men and women that are often only seen on the surface.


In the collection, you will see not only the people of the Jamaa El Fnaa, but the trademark items that make up Marrakech everyday life. Faysal’s Icons are layered on Moroccan carpets, brilliant patterns found in Moroccan Zellige tile, and with beautiful Arabic script. Each piece is representative of the tenacity of the past, of the people who have worked in the square, year after year, with their hearts focused firmly on survival - survival of their families, but even more so, survival of the stories of Morocco.

Faysal’s mixture of traditional portrait photography and pop-art truly create pieces that are reflective of the exquisitely patterned, continuous movement that is Marrakech.

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