Morocco and feminism embodied in a card game        

Donia Zahir of Darone working. Photo by Serena Abouljoud.

Two Moroccan artists share their journey through the production of a card game that transmits their culture and values.

This interview features the creators of Darone, Safae Mounsif, also known as, Sfiya, and Donia Zahir, discussing their production of a card game that offers a glimpse of Morocco through a feminist lens. The cards can be used to play any game, but they were originally inspired by the game Ronda. Learn more about their work at their website here or on their Instagram        

Serena Abouljoud: Let’s start from the beginning. How did the two of you meet? What made you want to start this project together?

Sfiya: So, I’m a visual artist and Donia is a web designer. We wanted to use our two skills to make a project from the beginning to the end and to share this experience together. We wanted to create a medium that will be different from a painting, something that will be more accessible to the user. In visual arts, you always have this distance between you and the artwork. You can’t always touch it or understand it. We wanted to remove this distance and use a medium that people can touch and that will create a kind of socialization. This is why we thought of a card game. People can touch it, use it, and play with it.

Donia Zahir: Before Darone, we worked a lot together, mainly on Sfiya’s projects. We worked a lot on her exposition “H’RIRA,” which was around the theme of Morocco, and one of her projects was a card from the card game Ronda. When I saw it, I felt something there, I had this image of when I was young and playing Ronda. Then at that moment, we were like, we should do a card game that represents the people from Morocco.

SA: Can you tell me more about the aspects of Morocco and the concepts that inspired this card game?

Sfiya: We got directly inspired by Ronda, which is very popular among Moroccans. Playing Ronda with the family and neighbors is something very important in our culture. In Morocco, you can’t just go karting or bowling, you have to create these activities within the house, and so cards are amazing for that since you have endless game options. We liked the idea of connecting this memory of us playing cards and revisiting it.

DZ: Ronda is actually a Spanish game, so there are a lot of white men and for me, that did not really represent our country or culture. We felt it was important to reproduce this card game using our own images of Morocco.

Sfiya: We kept the same symbols, but we replaced the old Spanish characters with Moroccan ones. We made a few changes to fit our values too. For example, this is a feminist card game—the most powerful card of the game is the queen. Our kings are babies, the children of the queens. All our knights are women with motorcycles. In Morocco, the only city where you see women riding motorcycles is Marrakesh. Each time we go there, we are just so fascinated. All these women were riding motorcycles, while still wearing their Djellabas and Kaftans. This is all coming from our version of Moroccan feminism.

DZ: We added symbols that would fit the concept of our collection too. The knives for example, are from Morocco. Our queens are also dancers. We wanted the cards to represent how we see our country every day and the power of feminists from Morocco. 

Sfiya: In Morocco, it’s called “shikhat” and up to now, they are very controversial figures because they were the first women to have a free relationship with their bodies. The first to think about politics, love, relationships and sexuality. They would sing and dance in front of a mixed audience, and they were often related to prostitution because of their relationship with their bodies. For us, they were icons, Moroccan feminists, which is why we wanted to have them as the queens of the game.

SA: Is there a piece that you are particularly proud of or that holds a lot of significance to you?

DZ: I feel like mine is the warrior on the bike with a knife, where she’s almost screaming. It’s a beautiful and powerful card. I think it’s one of our best ones.

Sfiya: For me, it’s the queen with the tea being poured on her. She looks very happy. Some people see something very sexual in it, but I don’t. When I was drawing it, I felt it represented freedom, the ability to dance and be a bit provocative. 

SA: How did you combine your artistic skills for this project?

DZ: At first, we disagreed about the style. Sfiya wanted something that looked like a painting, and I wanted something cleaner, more numeric, and refined. It was challenging for me to adapt to her style.

Sfiya: Yeah. For me, it was good exercise to try and get out of my comfort zone. Donia is also a graphic designer, so when she tells me that these colors won’t work, or comments on anything technical, I trust her opinion. We trust each other.

DZ: We did a lot of compromising as well. The first drawing Sfiya made, I redid it in a more comic-like style. I defined the lines a bit more, but she insisted I keep using painting brushes, so I tried following her style. It was hard not to have something completely clean. 

SA: Are your drawings mainly digital or did you implement other styles and techniques as well?

Sfiya: It’s all digital, but it somehow looks like a painting because I’m a painter. It was not even done on purpose, it’s just my way of doing digital art. We also wanted to make these cards different from other types of cards. We wanted them to be simple and clean, but also artsy so it won’t look too rigid as a drawing. I think the artistic brushes are what makes them unique.

Serena Abouljoud: What did the production process look like?

Sfiya: The process of creating the cards was very long. We went through two different phases. At first, Donia was waiting for me to finish the drawings, then I was waiting for her to finish the graphic design work, which is taking my drawings, framing them, and doing all the regulations.

DZ: I was in charge of the more technical aspects and printing related things. Our first tries were completely different from what we ended up producing. We changed the colors a lot. We started with lighter ones, then we decided to go with more powerful shades. It was difficult to find balance but once we found it, we immediately moved on to the production.

Sfiya: One of the most challenging parts of the production was trying to find a place to print the cards. We wanted to be ethical about it because it’s a project that meant a lot to us, we had many of our values injected into it, and so we wanted to be proud of not just our creation, but also the way we produced it.

DZ: After months and months of looking, we finally found someone. Our deck turned out a bit different because we did not use classic paper. We used a type of paper that does not exist in Canada but has much better quality.  

Sfiya: Yes, it’s better because it’s waterproof and you can’t tear it apart. We wanted it to be sustainable so that people can have it for years, and for kids to be able to play with it and manipulate it without being worried. We could have printed them in some place much cheaper, but we wanted to make sure we do it here to help local and family businesses, and with people we like and share the same values with.

SA: What is the meaning behind the name of your business?

DZ: We thought about it a lot. We wanted a name that is meaningful and shows that we are a feminist company. Darone is basically Ronda, the game we got inspired by, but in reverse. Darone is also a powerful way to say “the mother” in French: the mother of a family, a group, the boss of the house.

Sfiya: When you use the word “Darone,” it does not necessarily relate to having a child—it’s about being a powerful yet caring woman. In our card game, the queen is the most powerful figure, and the king is the child of the queen, which makes her a Darone.   

DZ: We talked about it a lot and in the end, we thought this was obviously the best name for the company and the concept in general. 


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