I finally got around to watching Let It Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles, directed by Jennifer Baichwal. I wanted to watch it because I’d heard that there was an interview in it with Cherifa (Amina Bakalia), writer Jane Bowles’ Moroccan butch lover for twenty years. Cherifa has been vilified by Tangier’s expatriate community as a gold-digger and a witch. She was accused of poisoning Jane and of using her for her money. And there was indeed an interview, along with new images of this Moroccan mystery butch.
Cherifa was also the first woman grain-seller in the souks of Tangier and an out butch Middle Eastern woman with a fiery temper and a predilection for smoking and drinking heavily. I’m fascinated with Jane and Cherifa’s twenty year-long relationship and the ire that it caused amongst Jane’s friends. In the movie, Let It Come Down, Cherifa crackles gleefully when told that people thought she was a witch, and speculates that it was because she was an artist who sold paintings to tourists. Cherifa was essentially butch rough trade, but rough trade that evolved into a decades long relationship.