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Arnolfini reopens with Hassan Hajjaj: The Path

28th July 2020

Categories: Latest News

Arnolfini, Bristol’s international centre of contemporary arts in Bristol, is to reopen post lockdown from Thursday 30 July, with a major exhibition by photographer Hassan Hajjaj.

With his exuberant melee of colours, patterns, appropriated brand logos and found objects, acclaimed Moroccan-British photographer Hassan Hajjaj invites you on an exploration of global culture across continents in his series Hassan Hajjaj: The Path.

Hassan Hajjaj: The Path is a touring exhibition by New Art Exchange (NAE), a contemporary arts space in Nottingham dedicated to stimulating new perspectives on the value of diversity in art and society, assembled for NAE by renowned curator, writer and broadcaster Ekow Eshun.

Hajjaj moved to London in the 1970s and has since lived and worked between Morocco and the UK. Heavily influenced by the club, hip-hop, and reggae scenes of London as well as by his North African heritage, his artistic practice reveals his capacity to bridge both cultures, as well as the interweaving worlds of art, music and fashion. His recent work includes an exhibition at Fotografiskain Stockholm entitled Vogue, The Arab Issue, as well as privately commissioned portraits of Billie Eillish for US Vogue.

Showing for the first time in Bristol, the city’s rich musical heritage and complex social and cultural history provides an additional layer of context to Hajjaj’s work, explored through the exhibition’s different bodies of work and associated programme.

The first series Dakka Marrakchia, sees women pose like fashion models on the streets and rooftops of Marrakech while dressed in camouflage pattern abayas and Louis Vuitton print face veils, the portraits offering a deliberate rebuff of stereotypes of Islamic women as subjugated and disempowered.

In My Rockstars Hajjaj turns his focus to British personalities, concentrating primarily on figures such as jazz musician Kamaal Williams. As always, his subjects hail from a range of racial and ethnic backgrounds creating, in composite, a portrait of Britain at its most dynamically diverse.

A small selection of reproduced images from Between represent Hajjaj’s focus on landscape, place and sensibility, rather than portraiture.  Reflecting the artist’s travels in Africa and the Middle East, the photographs reveal Hajjaj in a new light, as a photographer concerned with the intimacies of everyday life as well as the performed presentation of the self. Hajjaj shifts the focus away from a narrative that positions the ordinary people of the developing world as extras in the drama of globalisation – as refugees, migrants and dollar-a-day strugglers. In Hajjaj’s portraits they are not figures on the margins. They are no less than rock stars in the waiting.

Explored within the context of Arnolfini’s dual local and international outlook, Hajjaj’s focus encourages conversations both across city and continents, where cultural identity is seen as fluid and multiple – welcome to Hassan’s world!

Gary Topp, Arnolfini’s Executive Director said “Hassan’s show is a wonderful way to reopen Arnolfini’s galleries; accessible, challenging and vibrant work from an artist at the forefront of contemporary practice.”

“We have been in discussions with Hassan about coming to Arnolfini since November last year, with a view to the exhibition opening this March. Events were obviously overtaken by Covid-19 but we’re delighted Hassan’s show has now finally come to fruition and we can welcome everyone safely back into Bristol’s Centre for International Contemporary Arts.”

Hassan Hajjaj: The Path is part of a wider programme featuring family workshops and screenings both in-house at Arnolfini and available online. Admission to the exhibition is free and will be bookable in advance. Full details at www.arnolfini.org.uk and via socials @ArnolfiniArts.

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