Gunpowder Girls Exhibit Online!

 

Artist’s Statement:

If you can feel the sun, smell the gunpowder, and feel the rush of the horses’ charge, I have done my job as a photographer. My mission with “Gunpowder Girls” was to capture the effort and time that the women put into participating in the gunpowder games (also known as the tbourida or the fantasia). I wanted to capture them through candid moments with little or no posing in the hopes that the viewer feels like they were in the middle of the moments.

The Gunpowder Games or also known as “tbourida” or “fantasia” is a performance and competition with roots deep in a centuries-old traditional cavalry maneuver historically unique to the Maghreb. The games consist of multiple groups of six or more horse riders, in traditional loose white pants, white shirts, and capes, armed with gunpowder rifles, standing in their stirrups and charging their horses across a field before firing their rifles in the air. The beauty and difficulty of the games is the synchronization­­–the charge of all the horses together and the simultaneous firing of the rifles. After the discharge of the gunpowder, the riders rein in their horses together, and dramatically stop at the finish line- inches away from the spectators in front of them.

For my debut exhibition, presenting my photos with people I care about and respect makes this experience all the more fulfilling. Each photograph was selected for the purpose of focusing on one aspect of the games in each shot; the sun, the flare of the gunpowder, or the horse.

All the photos in this collection are influenced and inspired by research for my PhD in anthropology and my time in Morocco as a U.S. Fulbright Student Researcher.

 

A Palace Fit for a Fulbrighter

Every morning the coo and flutter of pigeon wings stir me, I pull back the red velvet curtains that separate my suite from the grand and airy salon in an apartment of the Palace El Mokri in the Ziat neighborhood of the old city of Fes in Morocco. My friends back home believe I am finally living out my Disney princess fantasy. Add a Tiger named Raja, call me Jasmine, and it is a whole new world; I am living in a palace that housed the Grand Vizier of Morocco Mohammed El Mokri and his extended family. I just stumbled into living in the jaw-dropping Fesi fantasy.

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The courtyard fountains and the outside view of the apartment in Palace El Mokri built in 1906.

Looking for housing in Fes is typically AirB&B or by word of mouth. A fellow Fulbrighter and I had looked at seven different houses and apartments but nothing quite struck our fancy or our budget. Eventually we triedAvito, the Moroccan Craigslist. After finding a nice looking apartment that seemed to have potential, we agreed to meet the landlord. On first meeting, this young landlord named Youssef, said the apartment posted online was not available, but he had something else to show us that was available.
My first impressions while walking through the long hall covered in mosaics was “oh no, not another dilapidated house.” Moroccan architecture is notorious for being sneaky and not revealing its secrets until you enter the house. Upon walking into the courtyard that holds three fountains and two slender pools, my doubt about the house turned into doubt about being able to afford the place.
One of the empty halls that is rented out for weddings. All the mosaics are handcrafted and made in Fes.

One of the empty halls that is rented out for weddings. All the mosaics are handcrafted and made in Fes.

Ever single piece of this is individually constructed.

Ever single piece of this is individually constructed.

We climbed the stairs into the far apartment and were welcomed into the living quarters in which my first apartment in Los Angeles could fit into without the kitchen and the bathroom. The long windows decorated with red stained glass reach over 20 feet high complemented with arches with floral plaster framing them until the carved wall touches the hand painted ceiling. Some might consider the mosaics a bit loud for their taste, but it compliments the entire room with the spectrum of colors.
The grand salon and bedroom.

The grand salon and bedroom.

Sunlight on the stained glass in the mornings

Sunlight on the stained glass in the mornings

The view from the balcony.

The view from the balcony.

I quickly said “I’ll take it!” And moved in with great vigor. I agreed to lease the apartment in the palace until the end of January. Now after living here for a little over a month, the palace’s history and famous residents are revealing themselves:
  • Grand Vizier El Mokri lived in this palace with his four wives and four concubines.
  • El Mokri is in the Guinness Book of World Records for one of the longest living men that held a government office.
  • The musicians Sting and Bob Seger are rumored to have stayed in the apartment that I’m renting.
  • There is a bullet hole in a panel of one of the windows when the brother of King Hassan II was attempting to shoot pigeons and he did not realize the windows were shut.
El Mokri was heavily involved in the Moroccan government under French colonialism. After Morocco gained its Independence, the family was shut out from government life. Their Camelot fell into a state of majestic decline. Here and there you see some hasty repairs to the mosaics, or cementing over the wholes in the marble floors. If it wasn’t on the market for $14 million, I would give up my PhD ambitions and spent the rest of my 20s restoring this place a la Under the Tuscan Sun. Even the old chandelier that fluctuates with power at night even makes me feel like Lady Mary in Downton Abbey ready to devote my life to the upkeep of this relic.
A tourist admires the view

A tourist admires the view

In the meantime, I’m teaching the pigeons to sing to me and dress me in the morning instead of coo me awake with their quarrels and flapping of their wings. Maybe I’ll extend my stay in Fes a bit longer…

About Me

GFantasia

My name is Gwyneth Talley and I am a National Geographic Young Explorer and currently a U.S. Fulbright Student Researcher in Morocco. As a native Nebraskan, I grew up riding horses from a very young age, trail riding and camping in the Black Hills and participating in the National Pony Express Re-ride.  As a undergraduate a rode with the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Western equestrian team and I started to re-realize my horsey obsession. As a graduate student my focus is on equestrian cultures, especially the Moroccan tradition of fantasia. While girls and horses are quite a common phenomenon in the United States, women and horses in Morocco are more rare, so I focus on the women participating in this predominately male sport. For more information about women participating check out my Gunpowder Girls page.

To contact me about my work please feel free to fill out my Contact Form: