'Ana al Hay': living with the ruins of modernity on the margins of Casablanca
Cristiana Strava (Leiden University)
Paper short abstract:
This paper investigates the intimate link between a mythical neighborhood of Casablanca and its inhabitants through a phenomenological approach that brings together humans and buildings, by exploring the mutual traumas through which lives and the spaces in which they unfold become textured.
Paper long abstract:
Built on the gaping holes of a colonial era quarry, Hay Mohammadi, formerly Carriere Centrale, has become a mythical neighborhood in the history of Morocco. Home to North Africa's oldest and largest slum still in existence today, Hay Mohammadi served as a laboratory for experimentation with social housing at the height of the modernist movement. Sixty years later these visionary projects stand as monuments to ruin and decay, victims of a toxic blend of political and economic circumstances. Home to a dynamic labor union scene that played a crucial role in the anti-colonial struggle, the neighborhood fell into disfavor during the reign of King Hassan II whose response to protest and contestation was machine gun fire and the creation of an infamous torture prison in the neighborhood. While an official reconciliation process is underway, everyday lives continue to be touched by the more banal wounds of poverty, pollution and decrepit living spaces. My paper will show that as industry and buildings fell into oblivion, workers and their families were also ruined by factory accidents, cancer, asthma, and unsanitary living conditions, which they see as a reversal of a once promising modernity. Based on fifteen months of fieldwork that combine a variety of sensorial and multi-media methodologies, this paper will present an experiential account of how everyday lives and the spaces in which they unfold are enmeshed in an intimate web of historical, material and sensorial aspects which exist in tension with current artistic and heritage efforts centered on the neighborhood.
Ruined bodies and aging buildings: architecture, oblivion, decay