East Wing joins the international photographic community in mourning the loss of the vibrant and talented artist, Leila Alaoui.
Leila died Monday night from injuries sustained during a terrorist attack in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso along with her driver, Mahamadi Ouédraogo, a father of four. She was seriously wounded after militant gunmen affiliated to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) stormed the Splendid Hotel and the Cappuccino restaurant in Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso, West Africa on Friday.
Alaoui and Ouédraogo were parked outside the Cappuccino cafe, opposite the Splendid Hotel – both popular venues for travellers – when the attack occurred. Both were shot multiple times at close range.
She was 33 years old.
Leila was in Burkina Faso on assignment for Amnesty International where she had been for less than a week, working on a series of photographs focused on women’s rights. She was one of at least 32 people who were killed in the horrific Ouagadougou attack.
She was born in Paris in 1982 and grew up in Marrakesh. Leila studied photography at the City University of New York before spending time in Morocco, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.
Leila has been honoured by photographic colleagues and friends around the globe who have all spoke of her courage and undying optimism.
In a joint statement, Jean-Luc Monterosso, Director of the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris and Jack Lang, a former French Minister of Culture who is now President of the Institut du Monde Arabe, paid homage to Leila's championing of the downtrodden and the dispossessed.
“She was an artist who shined... She was fighting to give life to those forgotten by society, to homeless people, to migrants, deploying one weapon: photography.”
Samira Daoud, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for west and central Africa, said Amnesty had chosen Leila Alaoui from several candidates to take photographic portraits in Burkina Faso because of her singular ability to make “faces talk.”
"Ms. Alaoui’s photography depicted faces with an astounding beauty and a certain seriousness, but without ever turning her subjects into victims." Ms. Daoud said,
Working with photography and video in her practice Leila shared experiences across different cultural and geographic environments. Her work explores the construction of identity and cultural diversity, often through the prism of the migration stories that intersect the contemporary Mediterranean. Leila's imagery expresses social realities using a visual language that combines the narrative depth of documentary storytelling and the aesthetic sensibilities of fine art.
In an interview with Al Jazeera
, Alaoui discussed her ongoing interest in migration, saying:
“Throughout my adolescence in Morocco, stories of migrants drowning at sea became regular on the news. In my eyes, these stories were constant reminders of deep-rooted social injustice.
“My French-Moroccan identity gave me the privilege of crossing borders freely while others couldn’t. When I turned 18, I moved to the United States and became even more exposed to questions of belonging and identity construction. I developed strong interests in ethnic minorities, sub-cultures and marginalised groups.
“This strengthened my conviction to develop my own style and voice, using photography, video art and social activism.”
Leila Aloui has been exhibited internationally since 2009, including at the Institut du Monde Arabe, Art Dubai and the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris, and has been published in newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times and Vogue.
Her funeral was attended by more than 1,000 people in Marrakech
"That so many women were among the estimated 1,000 people who attended her funeral in Marrakech, in defiance of local norms, is testament to Ms Alaoui’s rare ability to break down barriers between opposing worlds." The Independent
Leila will be sadly missed by all of us professionally and personally. Out thoughts go to her family during this shocking and difficult time and to the family and loved ones of her driver, Mahamadi Ouédraogo and all the other victims and their families.
"She always wanted to work on important human dignity stories, guided by her brave, courageous spirit, We are all so, so demolished with her loss." Elie Domit, Director of East Wing told NPR View her personal website hereAn obituary from the New York Times can be viewed here