Noa Snir has beautifully illustrated a Moroccan equivalent of Cinderella called Smeda Rmeda as part of her final project for her masters degree at Berlin’s University of the Arts. “The story got my attention because while all the classic components of Cinderella exist in this version (the orphan, the mean step-mother, the shoe, the prince etc.), it differs from the western version in that Cinderella is not a passive, pious princess – she is a strong, vengeful young woman with a mind of her own,” explains Noa. This version is brutal, funny and tragic all at the same time as the story begins with Smeda Rmeda killing her biological mother and ends with her feeding one of her step-sisters to the rest of the family as meat sandwiches.
When we last showed Noa’s work it was for a retelling of a classic Hebrew story which contained mythical elements. While the illustrator has continued her fascination with fairytales, in this new work it was both the gruesome ending and the protagonist that really spoke to Noa: “I wanted to pay respects to Smeda Rmeda’s heritage and personality… She ended up being inspired by Frida Kahlo and Kim Kardashian, which in my eyes depicts the perfect polarisation in Smeda’s character.”
Cast in a palette of teal and burnt orange, the limited colour range was for screen printing purposes as well as representing the visual landscape of Morocco where the story is set. “For me the orange represents the desert, the death, the heat, clay and pottery work. The blue represents the clear sky, colourful architecture, glasswork and textiles. The dark brown, which is those two colours when mixed, represents night-time and danger, all essential parts of the story,” Noa says.
With a narrative steeped in such history, tradition and culture, Noa faced several challenges during the project. “I wanted to draw inspiration from Morocco’s visual culture, without being orientalist. Questions of facial features, race, identity politics and cultural appropriation suddenly came to mind,” explains Noa. “Every choice I made had certain implications and I didn’t want to make mistakes. Certain things like hair colour and facial features became tools I had to use carefully and mindfully as I knew those choices matter and have an impact on the audience.”