Scarfès

Giuseppe Andretta

Tcharmil means, in the Moroccan dialect, a spicy meat stew marinated with different spices. Recently, however, it is used to indicate the teenagers subculture that has become particularly widespread in large cities such as Casablanca and Fes. The outward appearance of this fashion is manifested by weird haircuts, crests or tribal designs; sportswear either signed by European brands and huge watches, often gilded, or long chains around the neck and bracelets to imitate American or Hispanic gangs. Their weapons are machetes and they all show large scars on the arms, chest and often also on the neck and face.

In 2014, when I started this reportage, the king of Morocco Mohammed VI introduced a severe initiative to counter the tcharmil phenomenon that led to numerous arrests. The same public opinion has gathered in numerous demonstrations against the gratuitous violence of these gangs that often, in their incursions into the medina, they come to scar the face of their victims.

The title of the project plays on the meaning of "scar" and "Fes", the city; but also on the association with Scarface, the famous boss played by Al Pacino, idol of many of these teenager. The project focuses, however, not so much on the tcharmil subculture but on the form of self-harm that almost all of them use as a kind of recognition symbol or code of belonging. Unfortunately, this extreme form has spread by emulation even among very young people, becoming a real social plague. Its danger lies above all in the fact that the gesture takes place in a fit of rage or anger, as opposed to other forms; therefore the risk is that the author of the act cuts off a vein or a tendon.

I met a gang of boys in Fes, in the old medina, and I attended them on several trips for about three years, as a guest in their home. I lived with them the daily life of small tips from lost tourists in the alleys of the medina or from the gain in the sale of hashish. Despite their respect for Ramadan, these boys suffer enormously from the closure of the border with Spain, their only desire is to escape. Islam does not stand comparison with Europe, wealth and beautiful women; and the scars on their skin explain it loud and clear.

Self-injury in our society, among teenagers is much more common than we think, is experienced as a shame to hide. In the tcharmil culture, on the other hand, it is a symbol to show off with pride, a scream that triggers social horror. In Morocco this form of self-harm is older than this contemporary subculture but the youth gangs have adopted it as a symbol, as an emblem of their rebellion and desire to escape. After all, the skin is our limit and in this case, opening a gash of it also takes on the meaning of alleviating a much greater inner suffering than physical pain. An extreme act of self-harm much more similar to what prisoners do than western teenagers. It is no coincidence that the prison represents one of the worst conditions of deprivation of liberty, probably as the young tcharmil live their reality in Morocco within the Islamic rules.


THE AUTHOR

I am not a professional photographer, I am a teacher and a color management consultant. I started this project by chance, while working as a post production specialist for a professional photographer in Morocco. I spent 3 years and about 6 trips to Fez to develop this project. I self-published this project through a newspaper fanzine in September 2019 and I created a dedicated Web site to this project:

www.scarfes.it

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