A recent visit to Jemma el Fnaa, normally one of my favorite sites for a kitschy sensory overload, took an ugly turn. I normally gravitate towards the story tellers and street performers, though this evening I encountered something new. A crowd ringed a young boy while a man walked around the circle, his hands full of bills as he challenged men in the crowd to offer their sons up to fight and accepting bets on the outcome. The boy in the photograph appeared to be there against his will and was ultimately pitted against a much larger and older boy.
Nobody shouted “stop” or expressed how unacceptable the spectacle was. No police officers intervened. I didn’t stop it, either.
I was shocked. I felt horrible and helpless. Weeks later I still regret not rushing to the nearest police station and summoning an officer.
I made a photograph and quickly lowered the camera as I walked along the edge of the crowd. I made an additional photograph or two of the “bout” and then one of the “promoter”. The promoter ran through the crowd and started screaming at me at me to delete the photographs, demanding money and cursing at me in English. I responded – in Darija – that his requests were “not possible”. He then swore at me again and ran back through the crowd in order to encourage the boys to keep the match exciting for the spectators.
I realized that I was the only person in the crowd that found this whole thing disgusting and that the audience, now numbering about fifty people, may also have a low opinion of me and my stupid camera. I was totally alone. Common sense kicked in and I scooted back into the flow of the crowd, disappointed in how stupid I was for putting myself into a potentially dangerous situation and not getting the hell out of there earlier.
I walked by an hour later and saw two young men fighting one another, their well-used boxing gloves occasionally connecting and both nursing bloody noses. I was relieved that the children were given a break.
I have sat on this image for the past few weeks and have felt reluctant to share it. I don’t normally make this sort of work. I don’t normally focus on “heavy” material like this, though I feel like the manner in which I am presenting it is not further exploitation of the boy in the photograph.
I urge all visitors to Jemaa el Fnaa to avoid supporting this form of “entertainment”. This is child exploitation and is disgusting. Have some common sense and don’t encourage this repugnant behavior.
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