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.
Hajjaj's artworks are characterised by an explosion of colour, pattern, appropriated brand logos and found objects. Signs, symbols and people from around the globe collide without hierarchy or the presumed superiority of a Eurocentric worldview. In the Main Gallery the 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 djellabas and Louis Vuitton print face veils, their stance and style challenges the Western stereotype of Islamic women as suppressed and disempowered.
The Main Gallery also includes the My Rock Stars collection, a film installation and new photo portraits which depict creative figures personally or artistically inspirational for Hajjaj. His subjects hail from a diverse range of cultural backgrounds creating, in composite, a portrait of Britain at its most dynamically diverse. In focusing on figures whose family origins mostly lie abroad, 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.
Inspired by Hajjaj's approach to celebrating inspiring people, NAE commissioned a Nottingham-centric portrait, inviting the public to nominate extra-special individuals from our city. The winner, selected by a young people's panel, was photographed by Hajjaj and features in the Main Gallery, and other nominees are on show in the Central Gallery space.
Celebrating and encouraging creativity sits at the heart of Hajjaj's practice. As such, he has transformed our Mezzanine Gallery space into Le Salon – an immersive site-specific art installation that platforms local talent as well as a space for reading, relaxing and researching. Le Salon showcases a new photography collection by Hajjaj that focusses on landscape, place and sensibility, rather than portraiture. Reflecting the artist's travels in Africa and the Middle East, Hajjaj's images capture ordinary people of the developing world revealed as rock stars in waiting, rather than figures on the margins.