Btihal Remli | The Djinnidiaries

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Country of origin: Morocco
Project location: Morocco
Program: Arab Documentary Photography Program
Year: 2017

The djinn are supernatural creatures, described in the Quran. It is written that Allah made them out of smokeless fire. The djinn can be believers or non-believers; they can be good or bad; they can possess a human body. In Morocco, djinn have a presence throughout stories passed down from generation to generation., and their existence goes even beyond the metaphysical plane. They can also be a convenient explanation for mental health issues, or an excuse for problems that are difficult to defend in the eyes of a judgmental society, including the reasons a young woman never married.

For me, the story of djinn began in my childhood, behind a wardrobe in our apartment in Germany. Our parents, both born and raised in Morocco, were trying to educate us as Muslims. They tried to instill in us their knowledge of Islam - of what is right or wrong, good or bad. That also meant we were to believe, not only in Allah, but also in other creatures that our god had made, including the djinn. When my siblings and I would misbehave, my parents would tell us the djinn were coming to get us. There was never a moment in which the existence of the djinn was denied. Every summer vacation, when our family traveled back to Morocco, those stories took on more significance as djinn were, and still are, part of people’s reality.

On one hand, the belief in djinn allows people to have faith that something spiritual, not Allah, that can help fulfill their desires. Women can invoke the djinn to gain bit of power so often denied to them in Moroccan society. Sometimes the belief in djinn is an act of desperation. When there’s nothing left to help a beloved person, the djinn are conjured. In some cases, djinn are used by people to manipulate others and to create dependencies. This project, the djinnidiaries, is my personal investigation of djinn.