We at bazaar have always been fans of the acclaimed artist Hassan Hajjaj. His use of East meets West elements infused into his work with a heavy influence of pop art tones make his work so beautiful to look at, deep to appreciate, and thus the ideal type of art we like to use for our covers. And because this isn’t the first time we’ve collaborated with the artist on a cover or a story, we wanted to shed light on how talented this artistic genius really is.
“It’s been great to share my work with different generations, and to share a piece of our culture. But I do believe, you have to respect every place you visit and live, and you have to be open to learning and sharing about them as well.” Hassan Hajjaj tells me in a brief, yet friendly interview, solidifying my theory that the reason we find his work so relatable is because his ethos reminds us of our own. The Moroccan-born artist immigrated to London in his youth, adapting to a whole new country and culture that was foreign to him. However, as he grew as an artist, it’s seen that his work reflects his embrace of travel as well as English upbringing while maintaining his connection to his North African roots: without fear of color, traditional dress and accessories, to notable household products like Moroccan brand cans of chickpeas, and other everyday necessities like soft drinks with Arabic text on them. In short, every Hajjaj visual piece seems to embrace an intercultural sense that can only be emulated from somebody who has spent time on both ends of the pond.
“Growing up in a multicultural city like London and spending a lot of time Morrocco has given me a reflection of what is around me. One [culture] never really leaves you, and you in turn end up feeling like you don’t belong to either exclusively, but both at the same time. You’ll always be a foreigner in the place you moved to, and a foreigner in the place you come from.”
This is what also drew our attention to his latest exhibition La Caravane, which opened in London’s Somerset House in early October. La Caravane, also in partnership with the Contemporary African Art Fair 1:54, is a show that dedicates itself to capturing all of what Hajjaj has preserved over the years as an artist. “Like a travelling caravan, I wanted to channel the nomadic aspect of being an artist, and creating things that I feel define my work over the years. I wanted to bring my collections back home to London from Morocco.”
This sentimental exhibition includes his ongoing collection entitled Kesh Angels, a daring take on Marrakesh women dressed traditionally while on motorbikes mirroring a Hell’s Angels personality without compromising in culture.
The exhibition also displays a nine-screen installation entitled My Rockstars, featuring a series of different people whom Hajjaj has considered admirable throughout his journey. Considered the central work of the exhibition, My Rockstars shows separately filmed performers engaging in their activity in a way that results in an agreeable sounding widespread tribe from the Caribbean, Africa and Britain. “There’s poetry, a pianist, belly dancers, a rapper, and they all come from different cultures and places but the outcome is seamless to the multicultural aspect of La Caravane.”
La Caravane is continuing until January 2018, and Hajjaj has also been busy with other ventures as well. Tying into the exhibition’s partnership with 1:54, Hajjaj has been invited as the second representative African artist to display his work in the art house, following Malik Sidibé last year. “It’s truly an honor to have an opening in both Somerset House because of its history, and in 1:54 because of its depth and sentimental value to me. 1:54 focuses on African artists like myself, and I consider them family. Following an artist of such great caliber like Malik Sidibé is also a huge thrill.”
Other works he’s been engrossed in are ongoing, such as his upcoming project My Maroc Stars, featuring photographs of 25 men and women as photographers, acrobats and musicians, to name a few. He is also kept busy with his upcoming show in Melbourne, Australia, and has a mystery venture he described as “question marks” to keep us on the edge of our seats. We can’t wait to see what he has in store for us next!
For more information on Hassan Hajjaj’s work, follow his latest work on Instagram @hassanhajjaj_larache.