Yoriyas Yassine Alaoui Ismaili: to the moon and back. traveling morocco in the last mercedes taxis

The American Arts Center inaugurates its 5-level cultural space with new work by Moroccan photographer Yoriyas on view March 29th through May 8th, 2022.

Known for his innovative street photography, Yoriyas (b. 1984), is introducing a new body of work that transcends the urban environment to discover Morocco. His most significant solo exhibition to date, “TO THE MOON AND BACK - Traveling Morocco in the last Mercedes Taxis” documents a memorial archive of the Mercedes 240 model “share taxis”, which have been a way of life in Morocco since this iconic car’s first arrival from Germany in the late 1980s.

Yoriyas’ work is an intuitively-based observation of urban/public space, and documentation of the (extra)ordinary life in Morocco and Africa. His images have been featured in national and international media such as The New York Times, National Geographic, and The Guardian, he is the recipient of several awards, and his work has been exhibited around the world.

The exhibition will run from 29.03. until 08.05.2022 at the American Arts Center in Casablanca. Free entry

Yoriyas Yassine Alaoui Ismaili

TO THE MOON AND BACK. Traveling Morocco by the last Mercedes taxi

A Mercedes 240 taxi took me to high school for final exams, and my entire family when we went on vacation. I’ve seen 240 taxis transporting sheep for Aid-al-Adha, while neighborhood children ran behind the car.

For many Moroccans, the Mercedes 240s - and their drivers – are a part of daily life, the tie that held our lives together. They brought strangers together, too; these taxis were “share taxis,” picking up more than one passenger along the way, heading to more than one destination.

When a 2015 government plan announced that by 2022, the Mercedes 240s would be phased out by new taxis, I knew that a piece of Moroccan landscape would soon be lost forever. I set out to document these cars and their drivers before it was too late – to create an archive of a way of life that has been part of Morocco since Mercedes 240 first arrived from Germany in the late 1980s. I explored these taxi worlds, capturing memories of the Moroccans who have traveled in them.

I got to know the drivers, too, and the quirky relationships they’ve developed with their cars over the years. Some drivers speak of their 240s as if they were family members. They hear car trouble before it happens – and use home remedies, like using paprika to plug a hole in the radiator, or olive oil for the engine…

On one of those trips, a driver told me that in 20 years of driving, he traveled more than one million kilometers with his taxi. The mileage counter had set back to zero. I was surprised and told him: “Do you know that it is 400,000 kilometers from the earth to the moon?” He laughed and said: “I already drove to the moon and back.”

About Yoriyas:

Yassine Alaoui Ismaili, also known as Yoriyas, born in 1984, is a Casablanca-based photographer and performer.

He started playing chess at five years old, leading him to fall in love with mathematics. By the age of 16, the influence of Hip Hop culture paved a new path in his life: he became a break-dancer. In 2013, while traveling the world as a competing professional dancer, a serious knee injury halted his dance career. This sparked a new artistic transformation: photography as a means of self-expression. The unique blend of his Arab-North-African heritage, strategy of chess, and his love for dance led him to one-of-a-kind methods of experimentation through photography.

Yoriyas’ work is an intuitively-based observation of urban/public space, and a documentation of daily life and change in Morocco and Africa. His images have been featured in print and online media like The Guardian and National Geographic. He has received awards from IMA (Paris, 2019) and Photo Basel (2018), He has been exhibited across the world, including in the HERMÈS Foundation in Paris, 836m Gallery San Francisco, and l'Institut pour la Photographie Lille.


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