BORN IN THE fishing village of Larache, Morocco, in 1961, Hajjaj emigrated to London with his family at the age of 13.

“We lived seven of us in one room," he recalls. “It felt so grey and drab, coming from all that sunshine, being at the beach with my neighbours, barefoot most of the time...".

Struggling with the English language, Hajjaj soon dropped out of school, hovering for several years between unemployment and odd jobs before integrating London's underground club scene. At the same time, he explored the city's alternative fashion world, founding the streetwear and accessories label RAP (an acronym for "Real Artistic People"), and eventually teach ing himself photography.

This project was inspired in the 1990s while Hajjaj was assisting his stylist friend Andy Blake on a fashion shoot in Marrakech.

"I sat there and realized all these people were from Europe - stylists, photographers, fashion designers, makeup artists - using Morocco simply as a backdrop, which frustrated me but also made me think. Rather than just using the country as the prop, I wanted to make it look grand. I wanted to take the Moroccan clothes and the people and shoot them in this celebratory way".

For his imaginary fashion shoot, he asked local women to pose wearing his creations - traditional Moroccan djellabas, hijabs, caftans and babouches covered with candy-coloured polka dots, leopard prints or counterfeit brand logos - in the streets of the Medina, often parodying the poses typical of Western models.
The photographs are dated with two different years, one from the Western calendar (such as 2000), followed by one from the Islamic calendar (1421).
The title VOGUE. The Arab Issue thus evokes a double meaning-the word “issue” refers not only to a copy of the monthly magazine but also to an important topic or problem for debate or discussion, one he also probes in his video Naabz and the
series Hijabs and Handpainted Portraits.

"I know it can make people uncomfortable that some of the women in my photographs are veiled, but look at how modern and defiant they are! They blend tradition with pop fashion, and I find them so strong, so powerful, and totally gorgeous."

BRITISH-MOROCCAN photographer and multidisciplinary artist Hassan Hajjaj is an entirely self-taught artist, with a diverse practice that includes portraiture, installation, performance, fashion, and furniture design.
Often dubbed "the Andy Warhol of Marrakesh", Hassan Hajjaj embraces a melting pot of influences in his work, from kitsch to popular culture, from Africa to London street style, from hip-hop to Haute couture. Hassan Hajjaj challenges the way we think through this eclectic confron tation of styles, and invites us to re-examine cultural stereotypes and cliches. Beyond his work's exuberant, kitsch, Pop-Art aes thetic, his portraits of women in colourful hijabs question Western representations of beauty.
Alive with colour and patterns, this immersive exhibition brings together five important series developed over the past three decades.

The Exhibition is produced in collaboration with Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris.


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