Artist Hassan Hajjaj’s “’Kesh Angels” film showcases the badass women that are breaking gender stereotypes in the Middle East.
’Kesh Angels, by Hassan Hajjaj. Courtesy of Taymor Grahne Gallery
Images of Middle Eastern women in the media from the last few decades fall into two stereotypes, either dutiful housewives or victims. This cramped worldview, however, leaves very little room for the reality of their rich and vibrant lives. Moroccan photographer and filmmaker Hassan Hajjaj set out to shatter these misconceptions with his celebrated ‘Kesh Angels series, which debuted in 2014 at the Taymor Grahne Gallery in NYC. Through stunning, technicolor images of Marrakesh’s “girl bike gangs,” he paints a more complex vision of contemporary Islamic gender roles. Now, after spending two more years on an accompanying documentary project, Hajjaj will unveil A Day In The Life Of Karima: A Henna Girl at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), as a major feature of LACMA’s ongoing Islamic Art Now programming. In it he follows one of his favorite “angels” Karima, who is known for breezing through Marrakesh on her bike with her vibrant veils and textile abayas and djabellas fluttering in her wake. In addition to being a local icon, Karima is also a normal woman who works eight or ten hours a day. She is also an artist, wife, mother, and graduate of what Hajjaj calls “Jamaa Fena: the university of street life.”