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Press release: RAW QUEENS – Meriem Bennani and Fatima Mazmouz

Fatima Mazmouz, Chikhates, performance photograph, (2018).

5 July – 14 September
Preview: 4 July, 6.30pm-8.30pm.

RAW QUEENS presents artists Fatima Mazmouz and Meriem Bennani in this exhibition which seeks to re-evaluate 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 the myth of the Aita performers, known as Chikhates. The Chikhates perform the dances and songs in the centuries old cultural tradition of the Aita, 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. In Morocco the gun is both a symbol of war and of celebration, Mazmouz arms the Chikha, further emphasising her strength. Mazmouz has chosen to represent the Chikha as powerful, the voice of unruly and disobedient women, both disturbing and free.

Also shown here is Mazmouz’s earlier work, Made in Mode Grossesse – la Danse du Ventre (Made in Pregnancy Mode – The Belly Dance) (2009) a performance by Mazmouz filmed whilst in the later stages of pregnancy. In both pregnancy and the belly dance, the physicality of the body is at the forefront, and the defining feature of the woman’s identity. Through 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 (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 is at once intimate and whimsical. In her works Bennani uses digital effects and off-beat humour, leaning towards the absurd, to 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 means stranger in Arabic, it can also denote something strange, 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.

Ghariba/Stranger (film still), Meriem Bennani, (2017).

Curator Yasmina Naji states ‘As a project RAW QUEENS seeks 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 2019, London’s biggest biennial festival of contemporary Arab 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. A programme of events accompanies the exhibition.

 

NOTES TO EDITORS

About the curator
Yasmina Naji is a curator and founding director of Kulte Galerie & Editions based in Rabat, Morocco. She is also a PhD student in Political Philosophy at Université Paris – Sorbonne (Paris IV). Kulte is a Moroccan independent cultural platform, aiming to revisit a visual and cultural postcolonial history. It is a centre for contemporary art where publishing holds a fundamental position. It has specific research collections on aesthetics, gender and cinema with a special collection dedicated to Moroccan author and filmmaker Ahmed Bouanani. Kulte is recognised as one of the most active publishing houses in North Africa. As a curator, Naji has organised over 20 solo and group exhibitions featuring Yto Barrada, Abdelkader Benchamma, Touda Bouanani, François-Xavier Gbré, Kiluandji Kia Henda, Faouzi Laatiris, Aida Muluneh and Younès Rahmoun.

About Meriem Bennani
Meriem Bennani (b. 1988 in Rabat, Morocco) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Juxtaposing and mixing the language of reality TV, documentaries, phone footage, animation, and high production aesthetics, she explores the potential of storytelling while amplifying reality through a strategy of magical realism and humour. Her films, installations and immersive environments, question our contemporary society and its fractured identities, gender issues and ubiquitous dominance of digital technologies. Bennani has upcoming solo exhibitions at Fondation Luis Vuitton, Paris and at CLEARING, New York. Recent solo shows include: Ghariba, Art Dubai, Dubai (2017); FLY, MoMA PS1, New York (2016); Gradual Kingdom, Signal Gallery, Brooklyn (2015); and Fardaous Funjab, Stream Gallery, New York (2015). She is currently showing in the 2019 Whitney Biennial and her work has featured in group exhibitions internationally.

About Fatima Mazmouz
Fatima Mazmouz (b. 1974 in Casablanca, Morocco) grew up in France, visiting Morocco for extended periods throughout her childhood. Graduating with a Masters in History of Art, Mazmouz moved away from what she saw as the objectification of art through Art History to continue her research as a practising artist. Through her multimedia practice, photography, performance and installation, she questions the invisible domination inscribed in individual and cultural identities. Solo exhibitions include: The Small Museum of Utero, Twin Gallery, Madrid (2018), Casablanca Mon Amour, Gallery 127, Marrakech (2017), Super Oum, Galerie Mamia Bretesche, Paris (2016). Group exhibitions include: Semetrias, CAAM, Las Palmas (2019), Landless Bodies, Casula Powerhouse Arts Center, Australia (2018), Afriques Capitales, Les Halles, de La Villette, Paris (2017), Lucy’s Iris, MUSAC, Leon, (2016) and Le Maroc Contemporain, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris (2014).

About The Mosaic Rooms
The Mosaic Rooms are situated on the corner of the Cromwell Road and Earl’s Court Road in Kensington, London, a short walk from the V&A and Design Museum. Entry to the exhibitions are free.

The Mosaic Rooms are a non-profit art gallery and bookshop in London dedicated to supporting and promoting culture from the Arab world and beyond. We do this through our free contemporary art exhibitions, our multidisciplinary events (including film screenings, current affairs talks, book launches and more) artist residencies and a learning and engagement programme. We work in partnership with local, national and international organisations to disseminate our combined arts programme to the widest possible audience – in London and beyond. Our previous collaborations include partnerships with The British Museum, ICA, Shubbak Festival, London Design Festival and London Festival of Architecture, amongst many others. We believe in the importance of creating a cultural space that presents new thinking and daring creativity, illuminates ideas, inspires understanding, and interrogates contemporary issues. Our vision is for a London audience with a more informed, engaged and critical understanding of Arab culture and society. We are a non-party political, non-religious organisation, and we are a project of the A. M. Qattan Foundation, a registered charity number 1029450.

About The Qattan Foundation
The A. M. Qattan Foundation (AMQF) is an independent, not-for-profit developmental organisation working in the fields of culture and education, with a particular focus on children, teachers and young artists.Founded and registered in 1993 in the UK as a charity (no 1029450) and as a charitable company limited by guarantee (no 2171893), it has had a registered branch in Palestine as a non-profit organisation (no QR-0035-F) since 1998. The Foundation’s operations are mainly in Palestine, with interventions in Lebanon through Selat: Links Through the Arts, and in the United Kingdom through The Mosaic Rooms.

PRESS CONTACT
Flora Bain press@mosaicrooms.org 020 7370 9990

LISTINGS INFORMATION
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226 Cromwell Road
London SW5 0SW
+44 (0) 207 370 9990
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