Hassan Hajjaj Gets Critical With His Latest Exhibition

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The fashion industry’s lack of Arab representation has been actively put to light in recent years, but it’s nothing new. British-Moroccan artist Hassan Hajjaj has long been aware of the problem with the issue sparking his creative mind back in the nineties, when he was assisting one of his stylist friends on a shoot in Marrakesh.

“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,” he said in a statement.

Purple Sun, Vogue: The Arab Issue series, 2002/1423 ©Hassan Hajjaj. Courtesy of the Artist and M.E.P Paris/France 
White Dotted Stance, Vogue: The Arab Issue series, 2002/1423 ©Hassan Hajjaj. Courtesy of the Artist and M.E.P Paris/France

“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,” he continued.

That’s what he’s doing with his exhibition at Fotografiska, in New York City. Entitled ‘Vogue, The Arab Issue’, it’s a cheeky nod from Hajjaj to the renowned fashion publication with a twist celebrating his own heritage. Bringing five series developed over 30 years, the show is an exciting immersion in bold colors and eclectic kitschy patterns in traditional Hajjaj fashion.  

Naabz Chanel, Vogue: The Arab Issue series, 2012/1433 ©Hassan Hajjaj. Courtesy of the Artist and M.E.P Paris/France
Malikah Legs, Vogue Legs issue, 2016/1437 ©Hassan Hajjaj. Courtesy of the Artist and M.E.P Paris/France

Playing with cultural cliches, the artist captures local women parodying the typical poses of Western models in the streets for the show, while wearing traditional Moroccan clothes from djellabas and caftans to babouches covered with candy-colored polka dots.

Gretchen, Designer Hijabs series, 2012/1433 ©Hassan Hajjaj. Courtesy of the Artist and M.E.P Paris/France
Untitled (D4A), 2000/1421 ©Hassan Hajjaj. Courtesy of the Artist and M.E.P Paris/France

Another statement element in Hajjaj’s series is the hijab. “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!” he exclaimed before adding. “They blend tradition with pop fashion, and I find them so strong, so powerful, and totally gorgeous.”

Vogue, The Arab Issue runs until November 7, 2021 at Fotografiska in New York City.

 

Main image: Dior, Vogue: The Arab Issue series, 2012/1433 ©Hassan Hajjaj. Courtesy of the Artist and M.E.P Paris/France

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