Hasan & Husain Essop / Halaal Art / 2010

20 February - 29 March 2010 Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg

Hasan & Husain Essop / Halaal Art / Opening 20 February 11h30 – 13h30

Goodman Gallery is proud to present Halaal Art, an exhibition of photographs and a video installation by twin brothers Hasan and Husain Essop. The exhibition, as with all their work, deals with notions of performance, representation, and the tension between self and other. Born and raised in Cape Town, the twins graduated from the Michaelis School of Fine Art in 2007. During 2009 they completed a residency in Cuba – coinciding with the inclusion of their work in the Havana Biennale – and facilitated a workshop on invitation from the University of Hamburg, Germany.

Halaal Art extends the artists’ preoccupation with the role of the individual in society, in particular the space that Muslim youth negotiate in a secular environment. Inspired by their experiences abroad, the images depict the brothers in various carefully staged locations and poses around Havana, Hamburg and Cape Town.

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.

The title of the show refers to the process of making pure. In the same way that they seek to halaal their lives, to remain pure within the various secular environments they find themselves, the artists create work that is concerned with ritual as a process of purification and cleansing – an acknowledgement of mortality and a preparation for death, the imminence of which is a motif that recurs throughout the exhibition. The photographs occupy a space fraught with tensions; between documentation and narrative, the spontaneous and the staged (as evidenced by the accompanying video installation), and between overt expression and that which is left unsaid.

Hasan and Husain Essop have been collaborating since their graduation from the University of Cape Town. Their work has appeared in several group shows, including Integration and Resistance in the Global Age at the Havana Biennale, ABSA L’Atelier in Johannesburg and Power Play at Goodman Gallery Cape, as well as various private and public collections, including the Durban Art Gallery and the South African National Gallery. They are represented by Goodman Gallery.