Looking in the mirror, one can only see their own reflection, yet Hassan Hajjaj reflects his identity through his work. A blend of Middle Eastern heritage, a London upbringing, and an artistically curious mind, nomadic Moroccan photographer Hajjaj is one of the world’s most celebrated multidisciplinary artists.
Born 1961 in Larache, a harbor town in the Tanger-Tétouan region in northern Morocco, Hajjaj moved to London in 1975 as a teenager. During a stint of unemployment he got involved in promoting underground clubs for music, design, and art.
Hajjaj bought his first camera in 1989, and from there on it took him on an incredible journey that has seen critics compare him to the likes of Matisse and Koons. What sets his work apart is his ability to capture the quirky subcultures and iconic imagery of his homeland in a manner that is engaging to the West. His work radiates Middle Eastern culture and reflects his strong connection to Moroccan customs. Another influence stems from moving to London during the punk craze; these factors reflect the balance observed between his identity and his work. When asked how his Moroccan background inspires his work, Hajjaj replied "Majorly, you can see it in the work it's something that's part of me and by being in London I see it from another perspective."
Hajjaj's travels are another muse to his artistic portfolio; a variety of destinations that fed his love of cultural diversity. "It [travel] has been a major influence over my work. I had the good bridge between New York, Paris, obviously Morocco and London, Brazil and the Caribbean… to see different things and meet new people. Travelling for me is like the best school you can ever have."
His photographic series’ feature pop- up studios in different Moroccan towns featuring staged urban backdrops, vibrant palettes and funky customized fashion; a stylized iconography which promote a sense of rich, hybrid diversity. In photographic portraits, his collections Kesh Angles, My Rock Stars: Volume 1 and My Rock Stars:Volume 2, capture his Middle Eastern roots through powerful imagery and detail. Through tiled frames referencing the Moroccan tradition of bright mosaics or burqa-clad women posing as seductive statues, Hajjaj has established an international following for his photography and art. He has been shortlisted for the Jameel Prize 2009 at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, which toured to Riyadh, Damascus, Beirut, Casablanca, Istanbul and Tehran.
Despite having reached international acclaim, Hajjaj continues to prove his wor th in the art scene by endlessly promoting his work. One such example is his own Riad, in the heart of Marrakech, Morocco. Riad Yima is a spectacular labor of love that took three years to complete. A true celebration of consumerism with odes to Morocco’s addiction to recycling, ever y detail was carefully made by Hajjaj's hands. Lanterns and ceiling slabs from recovered metal cans of honey and tomato, dresses and slippers cut from flour sacks, cushions sewn from the fabric Fanta parasol, bucket seats; this urban design is a tapestry of West and East that marks the unique themes of Hajjaj’s visionary art.
Hajjaj is now based between London and Marrakech, showing promise that the striking characteristics of his work will continue to find inspiration.
For more information on Hassan Hajjaj, visit www.hassanhajjaj.com
Words: Bader A. Shehab