Leila Alaoui's The Moroccans shows a world beyond stereotypes

The French-Moroccan photographer was killed during a terrorist attack in Burkina Faso's capital earlier this month

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The Independent Culture

Leila Alaoui was just 33 when she died of a heart attack after being shot in a terrorist attack in Burkina Faso's capital earlier this month.

Driven by a belief in equal rights and a fascination with intercultural migration, the French-Moroccan photographer had been in Ouagadougou working on a project on women's rights for Amnesty International.

Born in Paris to a French mother and Moroccan father, Alaoui grew up in the North African country and studied in New York. Perhaps her best-known work, shown recently in Paris, was "The Moroccans", for which she spent days in villages to build trust, before taking locals' portraits in a single shot. Her aim: to show a world beyond African and Muslim stereotypes, which she believed is even more crucial in the modern political climate.

"Moroccans have too often been represented from the exotic… point of view of Western photographers," she had said. "My motivation was to… show Morocco in a way that I consider more natural, through the eyes of a native." She admitted the task had been less than easy, given she was working within a culture full of superstitious apprehension about the camera.

"Leila sought to propagate issues surrounding migration and cultural diversity," said Alaoui's representatives from the Art Factum Gallery, Beirut. "Her death is a tragedy but we hope the images she took in Burkina Faso will be exhibited one day so more people can see the importance of her work."

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