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Moroccan mimics Charlie Chaplin to mask hardships

The former sports photographer sees parallels between himself and the screen legend, whose humor and painted face hid a deep well of painful childhood memories. In the same way, imitating Chaplin gave Abdelsalam a comedic mask to hide his own sadness and hardships.

April 02, 2021 / 05:03 PM IST
When 58-year-old Moroccan Belhussein Abdelsalam was arrested and lost his job three decades ago, he saw Charlie Chaplin on television and in that moment decided upon a new career: impersonating the British actor and silent movie maker remembered for his Little Tramp character. (Image: AP)
When 58-year-old Moroccan Belhussein Abdelsalam was arrested and lost his job three decades ago, he saw Charlie Chaplin on television and in that moment decided upon a new career: impersonating the British actor and silent movie maker remembered for his Little Tramp character. (Image: AP)
Abdelsalam has been performing on the streets of Morocco’s capital nearly every day since then. Making people laugh in Rabat provides a meager living: He earns under $150 a month from tips. But he is proud to be the street side celebrity known to residents simply as Charlo. (Image: AP)
Abdelsalam has been performing on the streets of Morocco’s capital nearly every day since then. Making people laugh in Rabat provides a meager living: He earns under $150 a month from tips. But he is proud to be the street side celebrity known to residents simply as Charlo. (Image: AP)
The former sports photographer sees parallels between himself and the screen legend, whose humor and painted face hid a deep well of painful childhood memories. In the same way, imitating Chaplin gave Abdelsalam a comedic mask to hide his own sadness and hardships. (Image: AP)
The former sports photographer sees parallels between himself and the screen legend, whose humor and painted face hid a deep well of painful childhood memories. In the same way, imitating Chaplin gave Abdelsalam a comedic mask to hide his own sadness and hardships. (Image: AP)
“It was when I lost everything that I became Charlie Chaplin, (who) made the world laugh and cry without saying a word,” he said. “He is a unique person who fought against discrimination and united (everyone).” (Image: AP)
“It was when I lost everything that I became Charlie Chaplin, (who) made the world laugh and cry without saying a word,” he said. “He is a unique person who fought against discrimination and united (everyone).” (Image: AP)
Charlo’s bittersweet days are spent on the capital’s main artery, Avenue Mohammed V. He carries balloons, masks, oversized shoes, trumpets, pigeon feed and a smile. (Image: AP)
Charlo’s bittersweet days are spent on the capital’s main artery, Avenue Mohammed V. He carries balloons, masks, oversized shoes, trumpets, pigeon feed and a smile. (Image: AP)
One minute, he might be reapplying his stage makeup using a broken mirror in a flower shop. The next, he might be delighting the children with magic tricks and impressions, or sending the pigeons into feeding frenzies by scattering bags of seed. (Image: AP)
One minute, he might be reapplying his stage makeup using a broken mirror in a flower shop. The next, he might be delighting the children with magic tricks and impressions, or sending the pigeons into feeding frenzies by scattering bags of seed. (Image: AP)
But he also carries the ghosts of his past. He always keeps with him photographs from his previous career and images of himself as a young suited man involved in politics. (Image: AP)
But he also carries the ghosts of his past. He always keeps with him photographs from his previous career and images of himself as a young suited man involved in politics. (Image: AP)
The images were taken before he was arrested and spent a year in prison in the 1980s for activities that Abdelsalam says was linked to his political activism and journalism. (Image: AP)
The images were taken before he was arrested and spent a year in prison in the 1980s for activities that Abdelsalam says was linked to his political activism and journalism. (Image: AP)
That was during the reign of King Hassan II, before Abdelsalam became Charlo. (Image: AP)
That was during the reign of King Hassan II, before Abdelsalam became Charlo. (Image: AP)
Associated Press
first published: Apr 2, 2021 05:03 pm

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