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March 2, 2014 3:57 AM   Subscribe

The Motorbike Girl Gangs of Morocco: 'Kesh Angels by Hassan Hajjaj
"His confident, upbeat portraits of young women wearing veils and djellabah while posing on motorcycles subvert preconceived notions of Arab women; his subjects are traditionally clad but defiantly modern, bearing bright smiles and the markers of youth, independence, celebration, and fun."
More from the gallery's website.
posted by infini (21 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

Who knew that woodland camouflage and Louis Vuitton could look so cool?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:05 AM on March 2 [1 favorite]

Polka dots seem to be a big thing in Morocco...
posted by jim in austin at 4:11 AM on March 2

They are beautiful photographs. What isn't totally clear to me after reading the blurbs on both links is whether the women are dressing normally, or if he is dressing them in those patterns and colors for the photos? That's just my curiosity and ignorance about Morocco -- it's fantastic art either way, as is the one photo of his interior decoration at the second link.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:40 AM on March 2 [2 favorites]

That's too awesome to be real.
posted by spitbull at 5:59 AM on March 2 [3 favorites]

What isn't totally clear to me after reading the blurbs on both links is whether the women are dressing normally, or if he is dressing them in those patterns and colors for the photos?

He speaks to their clothing in this video. Sounds like they added some extra bits (e.g., the heart sunglasses) but other than that, this is how they ride.
posted by jammy at 6:20 AM on March 2

Or not? Reading more and now I'm wondering - either way: I like it.
posted by jammy at 6:23 AM on March 2

Well, according to Vice: They’re not “real big gangs,” of course. The girls are the artist's friends, who usually paint henna tattoos on tourists in the main square; but you still wouldn’t want to run into them in a dark alley. These girls are tough, speak up to five languages, and are full-time moms who work ten-hour days.
posted by jammy at 6:25 AM on March 2 [1 favorite]

and more, same interview: Marrakech is really a bike city; everyone rides them. Women, kids, old men, families, everybody. It's transportation; it's really used for work. A few of the bikes in the photos are from friends of mine we borrowed, but most are their own bikes. There are no real bike gangs.

So, they are biker girls technically, but not in a gang. Maybe they'll form a gang now? We can hope.
posted by jammy at 6:27 AM on March 2 [1 favorite]

reviews are mixed
posted by idiopath at 6:29 AM on March 2 [2 favorites]

reviews are mixed

That says most of the photos sold for over $40k each. That's out of my price range (by several zeroes), but I'm happy for the photographer.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:34 AM on March 2

I visited this gallery a couple weeks ago with friends. Absolutely worth seeing in person if you're at all interested and you're in the city.

The prints are very large, rich with detail and vibrantly colored. There are several dolls which you can see up close, complete with their little soda can motorcycles. And it's hard to appreciate the various frames made of canned goods in a photo.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:45 AM on March 2 [2 favorites]

Is there already a Kesh Angels action film? If not, I'm sure it's being shopped right now.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 7:00 AM on March 2 [1 favorite]

I am from Morocco and I can tell you that those colors are not an everyday feat. Some of these have logos of two football teams of Casablanca. So all this is just mostly for fun.

This said the women Djellaba is quite a real thing, colorful but not that colorful.
posted by zouhair at 7:22 AM on March 2 [4 favorites]

I look forward to seeing this imagery appropriated in a future M.I.A. video.
posted by 2bucksplus at 8:38 AM on March 2 [3 favorites]

If only Roger Corman had lived to see this.
posted by jonmc at 8:50 AM on March 2 [1 favorite]

that "reviews are mixed" link starts off trashing the whole thing from what seems to be an extremely snotty angle, btw, made it hard for me to read it further for any real critique of the art, which is what this is btw.
posted by infini at 8:53 AM on March 2

From the Reviews are Mixes link; "For me, they’re a bit too close to exoticism, and glorify a subculture that doesn’t exist."

What? I thought that was the good part.

"What kind of art is this? You just made this up! We want real pictures of real foreigners in touching poses and preferably doing difficult tasks, hauling water and shit like that. We’re not into exoticism though. If you’re going to make up some kind of "fantasy" in your work you’re supposed to use White people, or Black people if you want to look edgy. Those people are neither."
posted by bongo_x at 9:15 AM on March 2 [2 favorites]

I think these are a lot of fun. It's a subversive way to show women in strength. The only thing that pulled me up short is what appeared to be a Nike Swoosh on the veils. Is that real? It starts to create a comment (to my Western eyes) about value and culture and commodification and more, that then makes me turn back and question the "realness" of this which, ultimately, seems to be beside the point of other statements being made. Of course, that swoosh might not be Nike. But damn if that shape isn't full of symbolism!
posted by amanda at 9:24 AM on March 2

(If you like the idea but don't so much like that these are somewhat posed, I'll recommend "Girls Skating in Afghanistan". I can't guarantee it's not art, but I doesn't seem to be.)
posted by benito.strauss at 9:31 AM on March 2 [1 favorite]

More Hassan Hajjaj... this time men and their hairstyles. Seems like the clothes and popping colours is his signature style.
posted by infini at 4:43 AM on March 5

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