Elska’s Latest Issue Shares Candid Stories and Images From Gay Casablanca, Morocco
Elska Magazine, my publication dedicated to discovering gay communities around the world, has put the spotlight on gay Casablanca for its latest issue. Inside readers are invited to get to know an assortment of ordinary men who love men in this iconic Moroccan city.
From the 1950s a reputation for Morocco as a sort of hedonistic gay paradise emerged, inspired by the works of William Burroughs, Joe Orton, Truman Capote, Gore Vidal and other queer and queer-adjacent writers. While these realties surely only ever existed for the privileged few, that reputation continues to hold on, evident in Morocco’s continued popularity as a destination for LGBTQ tourists. For this edition the Elska team visited the country’s biggest city, away from the tourist hordes, to speak to ordinary Moroccan gay, bi, and queer men about what life is really like for them, attesting to how Morocco’s gay reputation is not a reality for locals today.
For a publication that typically puts the portraiture of diverse gay men at the forefront, Elska Casablanca takes a different tact, letting narrative take the lead. This was a decision made out of necessity more than choice, owing to the difficulties and dangers for Moroccans who are exposed as gay. Indeed this is a country where in recent years numerous men, both locals and visitors, have been arrested for “homosexual acts.” and where threats and violence are genuine risks beyond the confines of official law.
I was desperate to make an issue in Africa despite this being a region full of harrowing conditions for LGBTQ people. Of the 34 Elska issues produced until now, only one had been made in Africa (the 2018 release Elska Cape Town), so I decided that I needed to find a way to make it work. I spoke to many locals and activists across several African cities, and it seemed that Morocco would be the best and safest choice, both for myself and for the participants. However, once in the country, although I found that many men were willing to meet me to talk, very few were willing to be photographed. Generally in Elska, photography takes the lead, but for Casablanca I opted to present the issue in a more story-led form, rather than to give up and ignore Morocco, and Africa, altogether.
Elska Casablanca is divided into 11 chapters, each dedicated to a different local man who the Elska team met in the city. Each was interviewed in an unstructured way, like conversations between the subject and researcher, taking place during strolls through the city, visits to the Atlantic coast beaches or during many leisurely cups of tea. This style lends a very intimate and diary-like feel to the issue, inviting readers to feel like they’re in Casablanca alongside us, getting to know these men personally.
Some of these chapters also include portraits of those men who felt safe to have their images published. Even so, in order to maintain a higher level of privacy and protection for these subjects, some of the more revealing images have been published only in the print format of the magazine. Furthermore, a strictly limited amount of copies has been produced.
Elska Casablanca is 164 pages and is available from a select list of shops around the world as well as for order online from the Elska website. Also available is a companion e-zine called Elska Ekstra Casablanca, which contains behind-the-scenes tales, outtakes, extra boys and extra stories. The list of stockists and details of the subscription service can also be found on the Elska website, elskamagazine.com.