Hasan & Husain Essop, Power Play – Halaal Art
Our series of work highlights a multi-cultural clash between religion and popular cultures. We explore the dominating influence of Western theatrics and those narratives that are constructed to depict a certain reality. Inspired by Hollywood’s visual language and tactics, we create our own narratives. Each photograph reflects one another in a battle for the moral and immoral. Two dominant personalities appear, East and West, with all their stereotypes. The environments we choose define our behaviour, using it as a stage to perform. Several characters may appear repeatedly as it is our own clothing being used. Our daily fashionable wear, some branded to its class. It becomes a tool for acting opportunities, adapting to the surroundings thus creating a variety of people. Those clothed in Islamic wear are aggressive but humble in their quest, popular fashion attacking our beliefs. The pit bull demonstrates loyalty but no sense of reason. Similarily soldiers in war portray a patriotic commitment for their country, bred for a purpose. The series then explores our preoccupation with the role of the individual in society, in particular the space that Muslim youth must negotiate in a secular environment. Inspired by our experiences abroad, the images depict us in various carefully staged locations and poses around Havana, Hamburg and Cape Town. The thread that ties the images together is the subject: in Islam, the rendering of the human form is considered Haram or forbidden, and as the artists we are deliberate about limiting this to our own bodies and bearing this responsibility. The questions we ask are personal and intimate, performing these questions, and the search for answers, with our own bodies. The photographs occupy a space fraught with tensions; between documentation and narrative, the spontaneous and the staged, and between overt expression and that which is left unsaid.
As twin brothers, we have set out to find ourselves in each other, the similarities becomes interesting and exciting. Trying to create something new each time, a story unfolds and never ends.
Hasan and Husain Essop
Artists presented by John Fleetwood for the Discovery Award.
Exhibition venue: Atelier de Mécanique, Parc des Ateliers, Rencontres d’Arles 2012.