Middle East & Africa

Yto Barrada
Iris Tingitana Oxalis

This photograph is part of the series titled “Iris Tingitana project” (2007) focusing on the disappearance of the iris. If Yto Barrada was initially interested in the architectural heritage of the city, today the core of her research focuses on risks around landscape and its heritage. The iris, found bordering the city, carries the name of the city, and is an emblem of Tangier. This flower grows in the most improbable and resistant situations such as vacant land and construction sites. Now on roadsides, next to iris flowers grow geraniums, like in standardized European resorts. This photograph depicts a child proudly sporting a crown made of iris flowers in a deprived area. In traditional iconography, and especially in Catholic traditions, the iris, like the lily, is a royal symbol. This child reminds us of portraits from seventeenth century Dutch painting, in which flowers symbolize vanity. Despite the intense and interrogative look of the boy, one cannot help but think of the boy in a symbolized garden of Eden – a paradise lost.


Yto Barrada is an artist of Morrocan origin who has worked for many years in Tangier, a urbanized border town influenced by the West. Her work is articulated around Tangier's territory and raises questions on the city's rapid infrastructural changes associated with economical development and real-estate speculation.  Tangier, in a sense, is at the point of becoming a Moroccan Costa del Sol. "Le project du détroit," a work that has granted her international visibility, consists of videos and series of photographs, in attempt to describe a city of transit and in transition. For a considerable amount of time, Tangier was the gate to Europe that Schengen closed in 1991. A meeting point between Europe and Africa, the strait of Gibraltar became a "larger Morrocan cemetary" that refugees and asylum seekers used to cross from Tangier. Her work reminds one of documentary reporting, yet with a poetic vision, far from exoticism and spectacle. In her work, the city's inhabitants, or their traces, find themselves at the heart of her images. 

Yto Barrada was born in Tangier in 1971. She lives and works between Tangier and Paris.