As a child, artist Bettina Caro was fascinated by her surroundings in Morocco. From her weekly walks with her father through the souq markets in Tangiers to the synagogue on Shabbat, to the intense blue and green colours that feature so heavily in traditional Moroccan artworks; all have seeped through onto her canvas and had a huge impact on her as an artist.

Born in 1954, Bettina can trace a line of decent from the Sephardic Jews who fled Renaissance Spain for Morocco and Rabbi Yosef Caro, author of the great codification of Jewish law, the Sculchan Aruch.

But even though she is extremely proud of her distant heritage, it was her immediate family, particularly her mother and father, who have influenced her most.

“Both of my parents were amateur artists, but it was my father who was really my teacher and mentor, I learnt so much from him growing up. In my artwork you can see a type of blurring effect; that was his technique that he passed down to me.

“Even when I moved to Madrid in the 1970s to study art and architecture we worked together and he encouraged me to do portraits after he noticed I showed some skill at drawing hands and faces in detail. We were a very good team.”

Now firmly rooted in Stanmore, having moved to England in 1981, Bettina retains the Sephardic flair and colour of her North African childhood in her artwork and wants to present it to those who know little about the lives of the Jewish population living in Morocco, including those from the Ashkenazi community.

“Sephardic art is colour,” Bettina says. “Because we were surrounded by sunlight all year round and because of the intense, dramatic colours that were in Morocco I could bring a lot of richness to the canvas.

“I feel that the art in England and Northern Europe is more subtle, more subdued even, whereas the traditions in Morocco were more colourful and extended even to the way we dressed.”

Bettina’s pride for the Moroccan style is no more clear than when she speaks of the traditional dress that her second daughter wore for her wedding, a dazzling, colourful dress that had been passed down through the generations.

“It is so important to hold onto our traditions, otherwise they become lost,” she says. “I remember when my daughter got married and the groom’s family all looked dumbstruck by her dress.

“Here the white wedding dress is universal and in some ways it’s good, but at the same time there is that sense of character that goes with hundreds of years of tradition. It gave me goosebumps seeing my daughter in the same dress I wore when I got married and I find it amazing that all this seemed alien to so many people. The jewellery, patterns and brightness were something they had never seen before.

“It was like a new experience for them.”

  • Bettina Caro’s exhibition, Sephardi Celebration, will be on display at The London Jewish Cultural Centre, Ivy House, North End Road, Nw11 7SX, from Monday, November 17 to Thursday, December 18, various times. Details: 020 8457 5000,