Humanitarian photographer Leila Alaoui died in the attack in Ouagadougou

È morta nell’attentato terroristico del 15 gennaio in Burkina Faso. Leila Alaoui ci lascia in eredità un universo fotografico intimo e appassionato.

Leila Alaoui’s lens focused the world through the filter of humanity. Her photography was in fact imbued with activism, championing women, men, diversity, and peoples’ cultural roots. She was 33, and she died after the terror incident that shocked Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, on 15 January. She was wounded during gunfire and died on 18 January.


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Leila Alaoui’s “Les Marocains” was her last work. ©Lelia Alaoui via Art Factum Gallery – Beirut


To Leila Alaoui, photography was a “social mission”

Born in Paris in 1982, she lived and worked in Marrakech and Beirut, Lebanon, where – alongside her companion Nabil Canaan – she created “la Station”, multidisciplinary artistic centre. She went to Burkina Faso to document violence perpetrated on women in the western countries of the continent, on assignment for Amnesty International.

“My work is first of all a social mission,” she said in 2011 in an interview with the Moroccan magazine TelQuel. Her works are known all around the world: she exhibited in New York, Paris, Buenos Aires. In her last exhibition, at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, in Paris, France, Leila chose to focus on the deepest, most hidden and rural traits of Morocco, told through life-size photographs of women and men posing in traditional clothes. “I visited different communities, looking intimately, in order to unveil the subjectivity of people I photographed,” said the artist.


Morocco shown through protagonists’ gazes

It’s a collection of aesthetical, ancestral, Northern African universes and traditions, told with passion and courage: “Have you seen her bright smile she used to have on her face when she was photographed? That was her secret. She was determined to defend her cause. She was able to find beauty in everything and every person, expressing it to us,” said Fatym Layachi, French-Moroccan author and Leila’s friend, to the newspaper Le Monde.


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What’s left of Le Cappuccino café in Ouagadougou, in Burkina Faso, where Leila Alaoudi died ©Arne Gillis/NurPhoto/Corbis


In 2013, she organised in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees a workshop with a group of 20 women and young migrants, at Rabat’s East West Foundation. “She has always kept a reserved distance from people she photographed,” said her mother, Christine. “She was interested in their lives. I can still see her smile. I can hear her warm voice. She was all that”.


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