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The Chromatic Urbanism of Morocco

Photographic project in progress

An important feature of many Moroccan cities is their adoption of uniform color schemes for public-facing walls.  In Marrakech, Fès, Chefchaouen, Essaouira, and other cities, residents deploy color as a proclamation of place-identity.  While a practice extant for at least half a millennium, the public culture and political economy of pigmentation have waxed and waned with changes in dynastic rule, available resources, colonial occupations, and the rise of global tourism.  Moreover, close examination of the seemingly uniform color budget reveals a constantly changing riot of adornments, pocks, blemishes, incisions, and repairs of public surfaces.  This essay explores the chromatic urbanism of Morocco, not to recover some imagined authentic or final meaning, but rather to highlight the complexity of private and communal variation submerged in the smoothness of the public palette.  Ultimately, the use of color is one among a range of ways in which government officials, planners, architects, and residents negotiate urban place identity in a globalizing age.

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