Photographic works and other Moroccan stories by Hassan Hajjaj
The Third Line is proud to present “Noss Noss,” a collection of photographs by artist Hassan Hajjaj.
“Noss Noss” means “so so” in Arabic, but in Morocco it is used to order a coffee with milk (half and half). The use of this common phrase heard at Marrakech cafes is typical of Hajjaj’s world where urban street culture and the everyday coexist. From young people in Marrakech on the back of motorcycles to men in fez’s smoking cigarettes, Hajjaj’s work portrays young locals posing on the streets of Morocco and simultaneously captures Western stereotypes of the people of North Africa.
Born in Larache, Morocco in 1961, Hajjaj arrived in London amid the emerging club culture in the UK. Absorbed in the music and styles of reggae, hip hop and world music, he began fusing pop cultural influences from his dual cultural experiences; working in textile and furniture design Hajjaj began creating hybrid goods like camouflage chadors, Gucci papoujes, ghitra hoodies and logo-drenched djellabas.
In the early 80s Hajjaj began returning to Morocco, and at around the same time bought a camera from a friend and began shooting the eclectic streets and souks of Morocco, photographing everyday Moroccans –which he would dress in his designs of faux Louis Vuitton veils and Gnawa spirit masters leaning against clay walls, as if mimicking poses for the North African edition of Vogue.
Here Hajjaj takes European stereotypes of the North African world and turns them into a visual celebration in what he calls 'souk with a twist'. His photographs are then finished with a unique kind of Moroccan product placement: recycled bike tyres, tins of food or used batteries sourced from the markets of Morocco are then placed around the image, framing the work in the unique Hassan Hajjaj style. Each relief style frame is individually made by the artist, each referencing the co-existence of the new and the old.
Hajjaj says about his work:
“I feel like it is a celebration of my culture, everything, from the food, the smells, colours, sounds, hot, noisy, sunny world.”
As a so called urban street photographer Hajjaj uses fashion photography as a visual tool where both the old and the new, East and the West, the original and the manufactured consumer culture all co-exist, creating visual juxtapositions full of social paradoxes.
By recycling, re-appropriating and re-empowering Western stereotypes of North Africa, Hassan Hajjaj has come up with a powerful and celebratory aesthetic that is very much like a visual hip-hop: he does not combine Africa and the West, rather, he speaks the voice of a generation that can no longer tell the difference.