Rizky Etika, 2019 Global Research Fellow

Research ProjectBuilding a Fantasy: Orientalized Origins of the Fox Theatre

Research Location: Spain

Majors: Art History and Arabic

My project began as a comparative analysis between Islamic architecture in Morocco and the Middle Eastern inspired Fox Theatre. I planned to observe historical buildings in the Old Medinas of Morocco, assessing what aspects of Moroccan architecture influenced the style of the Fox Theatre. While I ended up visiting important sites in Fes and Casablanca that enriched my visual vocabulary, much of Morocco’s iconic style were hidden behind closed doors. In the Old Medinas, hidden architecture obscured most of the fine details and ornamentation that defined Moroccan Islamic architecture. The nondescript walls that created winding alleyways that enclosed richly decorated spaces. Many historical places like palaces or mosques also required connections or finances I did not have. Since accessibility impeded my research in Morocco, I travelled to Spain where I could gain more insight when analyzing Islamic architecture. 

In Seville and Granada, the architecture is more democratized than in Morocco in that public streets were lined with opulent Hispano-Moorish buildings. I also accessed tourist sites and museums more easily than those in Morocco. By observing the material culture created by Muslims in Spain and then later re-interpreted by Catholics, I was exposed to a different perspective in how Islamic architecture could be displayed. My decision came after visiting Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco. After speaking with Dr. Ennahid, a professor of Islamic art in Morocco, I developed an interest in the western and eastern binary that defined the trends by which the Fox Theatre was ifluenced. Although my thesis always sought to explore the extent by which western artists incorporated Islamic arts into their own aesthetic repertoires as a means of appropriation and/or appreciation, my conversation with Dr. Ennahid and my time in Europe provided me with the foundational literature and discourse necessary to complete my research.