39-41 Gregory Boulevard
The Path by Hassan Hajjaj presents a unique and timely consideration of culture and identity in the modern, globalised world. Born in Morocco, Hajjaj moved to Britain aged 12. He works today between both countries and his photography reflects the perspective of a natural born cosmopolitan who delights at teasing out the connections and contradictions that he discovers on his travels.
Hajjaj's artworks are characterised by an exuberant melee of colours, patterns, appropriated brand logos and found objects. Signs and symbols and people from around the globe collide without hierarchy or the presumed superiority of a Eurocentric worldview. At NAE, his Dakka Marrakchia collection exemplifies this approach. Here we see women posing on the streets and rooftops of Marrakech like fashion models. Dressed in camouflage pattern abayas and Louis Vuitton print face veils, their stance and style refutes the stereotype of Islamic women as subjugated and disempowered.
The Path also includes My Rock Stars, an existing film installation and new photo portraits depicting friends and creative figures personally or artistically inspirational for Hajjaj. These include painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, jazz musician Kamaal Williams and the shoe designer Marc Hare. His subjects hail from a range of racial and ethnic backgrounds creating, in composite, a portrait of Britain at its most dynamically diverse.
In focusing on figures whose family origins mostly lie abroad, in Africa, the Caribbean, the Middle East or elsewhere, Hajjaj conjures a vision of a society united, not divided, by difference. At a time when Britain risks turning inwards in pursuit of a national identity based on an idealised past, Hajjaj's portraits make an urgent, timely case in favour of hybridity and multiculturalism. In his images, cultural identity is fluid and multiple rather than fixed and singular. It is 'not an essence but a positioning'.
For the first time in the UK, Hajjaj also shows a selection of his photography that focuses on landscape, place and sensibility, rather than portraiture. Reflecting the artist's travels in Africa and the Middle East, Hajjaj's images capture the ordinary people of the developing world revealed as rock stars in the waiting, rather than figures on the margins.
Inspired by Hajjaj's My Rock Stars series and his approach to celebrating inspiring everyday people, NAE commissioned Hajjaj to produce an additional Nottingham-centric portrait. In a project called Everyday Superstars the public were invited to nominate extra-special individuals from our city – unsung heroes, those who go that extra mile to help others, or exceptional talents deserving of recognition. The Everyday Superstars winner, selected by a panel of young people, features in Hajjaj's exhibition and all nominees are also showcased within the building.
Celebrating and encouraging creativity sits at the heart of Hajjaj's practice. As such, the Mezzanine Gallery has been turned into Le Salon – a beautiful and unique space to read, relax and research, as well a platform to experience local talent.
Find out more about Le Salon
Hassan Hajjaj: The Path, curated by Ekow Eshun and produced by NAE.