Meriem Bennani and Fatima Mazmouz
RAW QUEENS presents artists Fatima Mazmouz and Meriem Bennani in this exhibition that seeks to challenge cultural and political perceptions of women in the Arab world, specifically in Morocco. The exhibition is a collaboration between The Mosaic Rooms and Kulte Center for Contemporary Art and Editions, Morocco, and is curated by Kulte’s Director Yasmina Naji. It marks the UK debut of Casablanca based Fatima Mazmouz, alongside Moroccan born and New York based Bennani.
Fatima Mazmouz creates work which critiques social constructions of womanhood and identity, and explores colonial inheritance. The body is central in her work which often includes an element of performance from the artist herself. Here, through new photographic and 3D works, Mazmouz explores the Aita tradition and its performers, known as Chikhates. The Chikhates perform the dances and songs in this centuries old cultural tradition which is still widely popular in Morocco today. In the images, Fatima Mazmouz embodies the Chikha. She performs against a background pattern composed of mirrored silhouettes of guns which create in their pairs the image of a uterus. Mazmouz represents the Chikha as powerful, the voice of unruly women, both disturbing and free.
Also shown here is Mazmouz’s earlier work, Made in mode grossesse – la danse du ventre (2009) a performance by Mazmouz filmed whilst in the later stages of pregnancy. Performing her pregnant body the artist reflects on the association and portrayal of women with notions of origin and the construction of identity.
Meriem Bennani’s multimedia practice engages with issues of identity related to femininity, feminism, and the intersection of religious and secular pop culture in Morocco. Her video Ghariba/Stranger (2017), is a playful, humorous and moving portrait staged as a modern reality TV programme about the daily life of four Moroccan women. Playing with the aesthetic codes of soap operas and documentary films, Ghariba/Stranger is at once intimate and whimsical. In her works Bennani digital effects and off-beat humour, leaning towards the absurd, create a distinctive aesthetic. Bennani both celebrates and exposes the private lives of these women – from her own family members to Chaabi pop divas. The word ghariba meaning stranger in Arabic, can also denote something at odds with expectations. Bennani’s intimate portrayal explores the strength and fragility of these women and their multiple identities – bold women sharing thoughts on love and romance, dating and friendship, loneliness and community.
Curator Yasmina Naji states ‘As a project RAW QUEENS will seek to open new spaces for conversations on gender and popular culture, and to construct new representations of indigenous figures of power’. The exhibition is part of Shubbak, London’s biennial festival of Arab contemporary culture.
RAW QUEENS is the third exhibition in The Mosaic Rooms’ series of partnerships with regional institutions and curators and marks the final exhibition in the gallery’s tenth anniversary series of modernist and contemporary art from Egypt, Iran and Morocco.
Fatima Mazmouz lives and works in Casablanca, Morocco. Through her multimedia practice, photography, performance and installation she often questions individual and cultural identities.
Meriem Benanni is based in New York and was born in Rabat in Morocco. She works in video, sculpture, multimedia installation, drawing and Instagram. She is known for her playful and humorous use of digital technologies such as 3D animation and motion capture.
Yasmina Naji is the founder of Kulte Center for Contemporary Art and Editions in Rabat, Morocco.
Film: Meriem Bennani, Ghariba/Stranger (2017).
Image: Fatima Mazmouz, Chikhates (2018) performance photograph (170 x 120cm).
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Exhibition made possible with the support of:
Part of Shubbak Festival: