(Hassan Hajjaj, Nikee Rider, 2007)

I’ve often said: If you’re not watching the exciting developments coming out of the African continent, you’re missing out. There is such an incredible creativity that’s been simmering–and now exploding–onto the international cultural scene. I first became aware of it through music: Ghana’s Blitz The Ambassador; Nigeria’s Nneka; Kenya’s Just A Band; South Africa’s BLK JKS and The Brother Moves On, to name only a few. Then there were the filmmakers such as Kenyan Wanuri or the filmmakers in Focus Features’ Africa First program. There are visual artists making moves such as Kenyan-born Wangechi Mutu and up-and-coming Nigerian Njideka Akunyili. And, of course, on the literary front, Africa has been hot for a minute: Think Chimamanda Adichie, Chris Abani, Teju Cole, Dinaw Mengistu, NoViolet Bulawayo, and Taiye Selasi, who’s credited with coining the term “afropolitan,” one that’s open to much debate. And that’s without mentioning all of the tech innovation that’s happening.

As much as what’s happening here in the States, artists like these are adding fuel to the fire of the New Black Imagination. It’s post-modernism via an African lens.

So it’s really great to see this striking work from Moroccan photographer Hassan Hajjaj. As described on OkayAfrica:

In his latest series, Hajjaj continues to offer an alternate perspective on femininity in Morocco, one that embraces vibrant colours along with individuality and attitude. Kesh Angels, a tribute to the biker culture of young women in Morocco, nods to the African studio photography tradition established by Malian legends Seydou Keita and Malick Sidibé. Hajjaj, who uses found objects such as Pepsi cans as material, frames his photos with elements of consumerist culture.
The important takeaway here, I think, is that the overriding narrative of Africans-as-victims is over. Yes, there are still problems on the continent (most recently Nigeria’s extreme anti-gay laws), so this isn’t an attempt to paint a rosy picture. That said, old assumptions need to be left by the wayside if we’re to understand how a surge in creative confidence across Africa is impacting the larger consumer marketplace.


Hassan Hajjaj’s exhibit, Kesh Angels, is on display at NYC’s Taymour Grahne Gallery through March 8.


(Hassan Hajjaj, Love Maroc, 2010)
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