Born and raised in Larche, Morroco, Hajjaj migrated to the UK with his family at the age of 13.
His father had secured a job as a cleaner at London’s elegant private members club,
Annabelle’s. Whilst succumbing to the ways of 1970’s London, Hajjaj was pushed in to public
school. With very basic knowledge of the English language, this was a difficult challenge to face.Not being one to shy away from a challenge, Hajjaj adapted, befriending other minorities both at school and in his neighbourhood. These included Pakistani, Indian and Caribbean children, on the same journey to create their own vibe and places to hang out. They were moulding their own backdrop by taking pictures, making clothes, DJing and cooking food influenced by their heritage. In these formative years, Hajjaj was susceptible to a myriad of newly western cultures, cuisines and traditions that were alien to him at the time.
Do you think travelling has influenced your work?
Yes it has, it’s opened my mind and you learn, so I guess it’s another form of schooling. You
learn about culture and people and it makes you appreciate what you have. It all adds up on
your work path, opening your eyes to how the world works.
What cities inspire your work the most?
New York is like my second home so it’s very special. London, Dubai, Kuwait, Memphis, L.A
and even Cornwall offer amazing moments for me. They all have different reactions, flavours,
cultures and people that fuel my creativity.
Why do you think people perceive your work with such iconography?
I feel because I shoot people like myself and people around me like my friends, there’s this kind of ease to my work. Showing my Moroccan side is different, so people feel like they’re looking through the keyhole to another culture from my point of view. Also I use a lot of brands so it’s easy to attract people to the work as they recognise it.
There’s been a rise in people using the Moroccan culture as creative inspiration, for
example with Skepta’s SKAIR & MAINS. Does this make you feel proud?
What can I say? I’m glad he was inspired [by] Morocco! I can see there’s a little similarity to my work in a couple of pictures with the funky frame but I can only see it as a good thing. It was great to see this as I saw him post one of my pictures on Instagram last year. I’m a big fan of Skepta, so for somebody like that to recognise my work, was a big moment as well. I wish I could meet him to say this to him but he is a big star. SKEPTA CALL ME!!
What’s next for you?
In partnership with 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair at Somerset House, I’m doing my first
solo show in London for seven years. It’s called La Caravane, I guess it’s a bit of a journey; like a nomad. It’s a mixture of my work over the past 10 years; the girls on the bikes, the rock stars and all of the extra pieces along the way. It’s open until January 2018, so you must go see it!
Hassan Hajjaj: La Caravane Open from October 5th – January 8th 2018 Somerset House – London
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