Born in 1961 in Larache, in northern Morocco, Hassan Hajjaj now divides his time between London and Marrakech. Spotted by art critic Rose Issa in 2006, he has taken part in numerous exhibitions in Morocco, England, Mali and the Middle East. In 2009 he was a finalist in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Jameel Prize for Islamic art.
Hassan Hajjaj’s photographic world draws its power and vitality from his personal history. A child of the 1960s, he grew up in Morocco and went on to discover London and its dazzling art scene. He worked there as a music promoter and music video producer, designed a line of fashion accessories and opened RAP, a ready-to-wear boutique that became a fashion hub in the 1980s. In the 2000s he drew on all this experience to create installations and decors full of his fascination with the flamboyant, organised chaos of Arab souks, as well as consumer goods, popular imagery and American Pop Art. Out of tweaked objects and exaggerated decorative patterns he invented playful, fun worlds that transcended the codes and usages of the living room – the Moroccan living space par excellence.
During the same period he came up with photographic series which betray an admiration for Samuel Fosso, Malik Sidibé and David La Chapelle. His photographs, taken in Marrakech, use humour and derision to exploit the ambiguities and contradictions implied by the veil and traditional dress and play on the sophisticated codes of fashion circles and music videos. The accessories, embellished with haute couture and sportswear logos, transcend any pleading for Orientalism or the female condition – young, heavily veiled and djellaba-clad women are turned into magazine icons and hip-hop stars. Kitschy and highly coloured, subversive and outlandish, Hassan Hajjaj’s images address issues about the way East and West see each other, and about the cultural exchanges between them.
Mouna Mekouar, curator
Text from the catalogue-book “Photoquai”, co-edited by Musée du Quai Branly- Actes-Sud