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Hasan and Husain Essop

Artists 132 and 133 Hasan and Husain Essop Islamic Diaspora Photography

Hasan and Husain Essop are twin South African Artists who live and work in Cape Town. Their work is concerned with the role of the individual in society, especially in the role of young Muslim males in a secular environment and have documented their own experiences across the globe.

The scope of their work engages with the local inflections of global conflicts. These conflicts are often described in popular discourse and news reportage as "religious" or "cultural" (antagonism between the East and the West, between Islam and Christianity, between Sunni and Shia).

But what emerges in the photographic images created by the Essops is a much more complicated story, of migration and diaspora, of cultural and economic exchange, of geographical and historical particularity, of individual and collective identity politics

In their digitally composited photographs, the artists use only themselves as subjects, as Islam forbids the depiction of the human figure. By limiting their representations in this way, Hasan and Husain create personal - rather than objective - experiences.

The thread that ties the images together is their subjects: in Islam, the rendering of the human form is considered haraam or forbidden, and the artists are deliberate about limiting this to their own bodies and bearing the responsibility.

They are also not interested in making objective statements – the questions they ask are personal and intimate, and they perform these questions, and the search for answers, with their own bodies.

From the perspective of young Muslims living in the Islamic diaspora, the Essops have produced works that investigate mainstream media representations of the refugee crisis according to the perception that there is increasing misunderstanding and fear of Islam in the secular world.

This self-reflexive impulse is playfully re-employed in a series of proposed ‘Muslim superheroes’ in which the Essops amalgamate American comic book and action figures with heroes and villains of Islam to question Western assumptions about cultural difference.


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