A woman sitting on a horse in a vast desert landscape dons a long white burqa robe covered with hearts. While she directly faces the spectator, only the slits of her eyes can be seen. Still her penetrating, power gaze and stance can be felt as if she commands the area around her.
The photograph is one of several that are now on view at Foam or Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam in “Blessings from Mousganistan” an exhibition by self-taught Moroccan-Belgian photographer Mous Lamrabat showcasing the artist’s poignant images that confront his diasporic life, born in the north of Morocco, who moved to Belgium as a child.
The much sought after photographer has had his work on the cover of Vogue Arabia shot for GQ Middle East as well as numerous other publications and fashion brands. His work has been shown in the PhotoVogue community since 2019 and has been exhibited at the PhotoVogue Festival in 2019 and 2022. After finishing his studies as an interior architect, he became more and more interested in photography, particularly inspired by the work of French street artist and photographer JR. This was the way he could truly express himself, his origins and offer the world beautiful as well as thought provoking images.
Confronting his eastern and western influences has long been a focal point of Lamrabat’s oeuvre, whose work is represented by Loft Art Gallery based in Casablanca, Morocco. “Moroccan-Belgian: it is a contraction where the hyphen often seems to be a bridge, but is sometimes a delicate fracture,” he stated in a recent press release on his work in 2019. The indecisiveness of that hyphen as it balances his two halves continues to be a catalyst for the aesthetic of his photography resulting in cultural hybrids stemming from Western and Moroccan aesthetics that are fused, questioned and playfully examined. His universe is what he dubs “Mousganistan” and these are where Western and Moroccan elements simultaneously exist and clash. The resulting images, that couple the glossy beauty of high fashion photography with a more documentary-style examination into the continual frustrations and misunderstandings that result from the depictions and subject matter of the Arab world. Lamrabat captures the challenges with grace and humor.
“As an immigrant kid, always between this and that I created his own world, lovingly named Mousganistan, a utopian space that exists beyond a world of cultural divisions, racism, and status,” he says.
Fitting for our present times of uncertainty and climate change, in this present show the photographer makes calls for peace and love. On view is a selection of old and new work which experiments for the first time with different modes of printing and installation-style set up—a curatorial style that always fascinated him.
“The entire exhibition is one big experience and works as one big installation that was built up out of little installations of photography,” he says. “I wanted to focus on the way of showing my photography.”
Women with shiny pink robes, their faces completely wrapped up in the drapery, are positioned in desert landscapes like goddesses from another realm. A man wearing a playful yellow niqab with the single black happy face line on the niqab seems to indicate to say to the viewer: “I am covered but still friendly.” In another, a profile shot of an African man wearing a yellow Moroccan fez hat and an earring with the McDonalds symbol captures the fusion of western consumerism with traditional Moroccan culture.
These images stem from Lamrabat’s acceptance of his own authenticity as a produce of the east and the west with a desire to break down stereotypes and prompt both sides to understand a bit more about “the other.” The works on show strike a though-provoking glimpse into what the world might be like in the future if we could transcend our fears, judgments and preconceived notions of other cultures and co-exist peacefully.