08 April 2019

Symbols and Signs from Morocco’s Ancient Tattoo Culture

08 April 2019 - Written by PhMuseum

Born from a need to explore the make-up of her indigenous heritage, Moroccan artist Safaa Mazirh fuses photography and painting to create a collection of portraits that together look to revisit the forms and beauty of ancient Amazigh symbols.

Tattooing has always been a custom among Amazigh women in Morocco, whether as an ornament, to express a feeling, or to symbolise social status. They helped to separate and identify members of different tribes through drawings, often on the face, with very geometric characteristics and supposedly magical virtues.

Every detail and every motif has its own symbolism. To represent this sign on oneself is to attract what it symbolises. Most often they recall a rite where Amazigh women remember the means of attack and defence, or to preserve her happiness and offer schematic reminders of the life and worries in the household; they are intended to remind her of all the magical and superstitious rites which may, according to their beliefs, render them happy or unhappy. A coded and mysterious language, which women pass on from generation to generation to express all phases of their lives and the stages of their personal experiences. In Amazigh culture, the woman is assimilated to a "living sanctuary". She is the pillar of society, representing the tribe and its life - the bearer of traditions and all cultural identity.

This project was initially developed by a very strong personal need: that of my identity and my culture. I grew up in a family where Amazigh symbols and signs were very present in our daily life. I was always fascinated by the forms and beauty of Amazigh symbols and I possessed the curiosity to know their meanings. This series combines both the symbols and the body which is natural evidence in this research process. The project has been supported by Courtesey Galerie 127.

Words and Pictures by Safaa Mazirh.


Safaa Mazirh
 is a self-educated Moroccan artist currently living and working in Rabat. Inspired by theatrical practice, she is using photography to explore themes around the self and the body. Find her on PHmuseum.


This feature is part of Story of the Week, a selection of relevant projects from our community handpicked by the PHmuseum curators.

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