Iris Tingitana Project
IRIS TINGITANA is one of Tangier’s native flowers, and takes its name from the city’s Latin one. The Tingitana peninsula of northern Morocco is a place of great biodiversity, home to the highest concentration of indigenous species on the Mediterranean. Since long before the Romans, human development has left its traces on this environment without defining it.
Over the past ten years, though, marketplaces, pastures, and formerly protected forests and historic buildings are being handed over to developers of hotels, housing, and shopping malls, in a fast-forward push to replicate the Spanish Costa del Sol, a high-density suburban sprawl of mass sunshine tourism.
The decision makers’ broader goal, conscious or not, is a new, clean, globally marketable Morocco in which the only indigenous species visible in public are those branded by modernity or neatly framed by their folkloric status. Wildflowers, like street kids, men napping in parks, roadside picnickers, farmers selling produce, and clandestine pastoral lovers, will soon have no place.
Flowers are wrongly considered inherently poetic. Here they have quietly become political. The overnight appearance in Tangier’s traffic circles of thousands of pink geraniums, in a seasonal full bloom, or the quick march of imported palm trees from the south along the corniche of Tangier speak in botanical code of the new grammar of power.
January is also the month in which the local Irises bloom, and this year, in in-between spaces – on rutted construction sites, along incomplete highway spans and in the remaining graveyards and grasslands -- the surviving endangered wild iris, sage, and pines still bore stoic witness to their city’s irreversible transformation.