Arts Arts and Culture Culture Student Life

Morocco and feminism embodied in a card game        

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. 


The demand for sports cards is at an all-time high

Sports cards rise in popularity amidst the pandemic

Collecting sports cards is an old hobby that has seen an unprecedented surge in popularity over the last year. As a result, the  trading, buying, and selling of sports cards has never been hotter.

In January, American entrepreneur and Indianapolis-native Rob Gough bought a rare 1952 Mickey Mantle baseball card for a record-setting US $5.2 million. Meanwhile, a limited edition LeBron James basketball card sold for a little over $1.8 million last July.

Trevor Ingram, owner of Sports Card Check-Swing in Brossard, said demand for cards started reaching all-time heights last year.

“In the early stages of the pandemic, I think people were looking for new hobbies to pass the time from home and get their minds off the virus,” Ingram said. “Collecting cards just so happens to lend itself well to confinement and social distancing.”

The most common and affordable method of collecting sports cards is to buy individual packs, in which consumers can expect to get several cards from the base set with a slight chance of pulling exclusive cards called inserts. Cards from the base set are common and guaranteed in every pack whereas inserts are unique cards that are randomly inserted into packs, which makes them considerably harder to acquire.

“Autographed, jersey memorabilia, and rookie inserts are generally worth the most, but it depends on the sport and particular set.” Ingram said.

Retail and hobby boxes offer packs in greater bulk with better odds of pulling a set’s valuable inserts. The former is widely distributed and sold at most retail outlets, while the latter is an alternative that gives avid collectors a certain number of guaranteed hits at a higher cost.

Cards can also be acquired on an individual basis. Nowadays, a desirable card is a point and click away for card gatherers, thanks in large part to the internet, social media, and e-commerce platforms like eBay.

According to Ingram, a fervent card collector himself, the most dedicated people in the hobby will do a little bit of everything. For Ingram, that means generating a personal collection of untouchable cards, which allows him to regularly open packs for the sheer joy and excitement, while simultaneously turning a profit whenever appropriate.

“As a kid, I was addicted to the mystery that comes with opening a fresh box of cards,” Ingram said. “Even though there are better ways to spend money in the hobby with the lopsided pack odds nowadays, the thrill and excitement of opening packs isn’t there when you are buying cards secondhand.”

With the hobby’s resurgence in recent times, Ingram said his valuable sports stock sells out in a matter of hours. He added that due to limited supply and absurd demand, prices for card packs across every major sport have risen by a large margin.

“Now, some boxes are selling for up to five times their original price, and those numbers will keep climbing so long as people are willing to spend,” Ingram said. “Unfortunately, average people who are interested in collecting but don’t want to spend an entire paycheck on cards are being priced out.”

Despite the growing costs of collecting sports cards, Ingram said there are ways to stay engaged without breaking the bank amidst the card market boom.

While most card investors set their sights on the exclusive mint-condition cards, many will bundle their non-graded cards for sale at a modest price. This remains a viable option for those who are looking to open packs with their children or just indulge in the mystery themselves.

“Getting a card professionally graded is costly and usually takes a few months with shipping,” Ingram explained. “Grading significantly boosts the value of cards, but most of the time it’s simply not worth the struggle unless the card is worthwhile.”

Sports Card Check-Swing never put products on reserve for clients in the past — according to Ingram, no one ever asked, and the need was never there.

Today, Ingram said he gets calls daily from clients asking him to put aside products for them; often months ahead of scheduled release dates. He added that if not for an imposed limit on the number of pre-orders he can accept, the local card shop would have nothing to sell on the days of release.

“I’ve been in this business for over 30 years, and this is undoubtedly the biggest sports card boom I’ve ever witnessed,” Ingram said. “Yet, I think the industry is years away from actually reaching its peak.”


Photo by Liam Sharp

Student Life

DIY diaries: Apartment decor

You know how taking hormonal birth control tricks your body into thinking it’s pregnant? Well, I think mine has tricked me into thinking I’m a mother of three, armed with a Pinterest account, the loyal patrons of my mommy blog and a burning desire to get crafty. (My children’s names in this scenario are Kayleeigh, Kaiylen, and Kaedenn, by the way).

Let me explain.

I’ve recently noticed a monumental shift in how I like to spend my free time. Lately, my perfect evening is spent holed up in my apartment, pounding Diet Cokes and making macrame. Nothing gets me more jazzed these days than the prospect of organizing my cupboards or repainting my closet doors. Who have I become?

As winter slowly draws to a close, the mood to change things up in my home has been especially strong. Redecorating costs can add up quickly though, so I’ve had to find some ways to do it on the cheap. Here are some easy, quick, and affordable projects that I’ve really enjoyed so far.

A great way to make things a bit more sophisticated is with a quick coat of paint. Photo by Laurence Brisson Dubreuil

Plants, Paints and Pots

Whenever I pick up a new houseplant for my home, I usually plant it in one of those cheap terracotta pots from the dollar store. While this looks nice enough on it’s own, a great way to make things a bit more sophisticated is with a quick coat of paint. Personally, I’ve been enjoying this stone-gray colour. It’s easy to paint over afterwards and the porous surface of the terracotta is really forgiving when it comes to making cheap paint stick on. The only thing left to do is actually remember to water the plants. This is something I struggle with and will likely continue to struggle with until the end of time.

Any kind of paper works when it comes to origami. Photo by Laurence Brisson Dubreuil

Origami on a String

I recently took up the hobby of making origami—again, I genuinely don’t know who I am anymore. Something I’ve been doing lately is stringing paper cranes together using a needle and embroidery thread, and then hanging them around my apartment.  I think it adds a really pretty pop of colour to the room and the cranes are surprisingly easy to make once you get the hang of the different folds. I learned how to make them following YouTube tutorials.

As long as it’s cut in a square shape, any kind of paper works when it comes to origami. That being said, I do find that using actual origami paper makes things much easier since it’s so thin and easy to fold.

Chalk paint is great because you can apply it to all kinds of surfaces. Photo by Laurence Brisson Dubreuil

Put Some Chalk Paint on It 

Do you have a roommate? Does that roommate have an old whiteboard they’re going to throw out? Does that same roommate also have a can of spray-on chalk paint? Do you feel confident enough in your relationship with said roommate that you can steal their whiteboard and chalk paint without their permission? If so, try it out!

A chalkboard looks much nicer than a whiteboard, in my humble opinion. Plus, chalk paint is great because you can apply it to all kinds of surfaces. Just make sure to draw a cute doodle of you and your roommate on it afterwards, to make up for stealing her things.

Cards are Cute

A cheap frame from the dollar store is a magical thing. I keep a stack of them stowed away in my closet, so that whenever I stumble across a cute print, I can easily hang it up that same day. A frame also allows you to get creative with what you display on your wall because it makes almost everything look pretty, elegant and intentional.

A frame allows you to get creative with what you display on your wall. Photo by Laurence Brisson Dubreuil

Lately, I’ve been really into framing the postcards I’ve collected over the years. Whether they be from my own travels or someone else’s, I can’t resist bold colours with a glossy finish, ya know? I think they look lovely grouped together in four-panel frames like the one you see here. (The skull print is not a postcard, by the way, but a print by a local artist—you can find her as manson.grrrl on Instagram. Her stuff is great!).

This also works really well with greeting cards. In this case, I cut off the front portion of the card and glued it down on a coloured piece of paper so that it would fit into a larger frame. It’s a great way to liven up a room without spending the big bucks.

Redecorating doesn’t have to be expensive and time consuming, and you don’t even have to be a Pinterest mom to make it happen. Plus, focusing your energy on personalizing your space and working on yourself is a great way to put off studying, so that’s healthy! Hopefully these ideas can inspire you to get creative with your home. Happy decorating!

Photos by Laurence Brisson Dubreuil

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