Mous Lamrabat focuses on peace, care and love in his latest exhibition

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‘Luv Ryders, 2021 © Mous Lamrabat/ Loft Art Gallery.

Opening his show at Foam Amsterdam today, the Moroccan photographer blends commercial icons with rich, cultural references to ‘deconstruct the notion of normal’

A figure stands swathed in shimmering pink fabric against the muted orange curves of an empty desert scene. A woman sits upon a horse, her all-white outfit covered in bright red hearts. Two people stand side by side looking directly into the camera, their long, pearlescent robes emblazoned with slogans that read, ‘WARNING EXPLICIT BEAUTY’ and ‘STOP TERRORISING OUR WORLD’. 

These are just some of the surreal and playful images we can expect to see in Moroccan artist Mous Lamrabat’s forthcoming exhibition, Blessings from Mousganistan, opening at Foam Amsterdam on 28 May and running until 16 October.

Mashallah with extra cheese, 2021 © Mous Lamrabat/ Loft Art Gallery.

Lamrabat – who was born in the north of Morocco but moved to the region of Flanders, Belgium, when he was young – draws on his North African and European identities when making work. He employs different cultural symbols in the same images to represent his diasporic experience. Where shrouded bodies are a nod towards his Muslim heritage, globally recognised brands and symbols turn up in his pictures too, inviting us to view them in new and unexpected ways and challenging what we view as ‘normal’. In one photograph, for instance, a young woman cast in rich blue light wears an earring in the shape of the McDonald’s golden arches. In another, a man in a motorcycle helmet wears an Arabic thobe printed with the Nike tick logo. 

In 2019, Lamrabat was one of British Journal of Photography’s Ones to Watch. “It’s important to talk about my heritage,” he told BJP. “Whatever happens in these times, I just want to show that we’re creative, we have such a rich culture. It’s beautiful.” That impulse has flourished as Lamrabat has grown as an artist, and particularly in his recent work his aims are twofold. He hopes to conjure a comforting space for the viewer – eclectic, colourful and warm, where politics of care and peace are privileged, hence his coining of the word ‘Mousganistan’ which represents an ideal, imaginary place of his own invention. But he also uses his images as icons to confront themes such as racism and religion, women’s rights and immigration.

Blessings from Mousganistan promises a “fascinating utopia” when you step inside the museum walls. The experience is made all-encompassing through the artist’s experiments with presentation, such as superimposing his photographs in large lenticular prints. Lamrabat wants to draw people closer to his images than ever before, and invite an intimate engagement with them. At the end of the exhibition, an installation of universal prayer flags will take over the space. A powerful visual statement to accompany the themes of his photographs, this is Lamrabat’s response to the ongoing movement of refugees across the world – and a poignant reminder to his audience to look out for one another. 

Blessings from Mousganistan is at Foam Amsterdam until 16 October 2022.

foam.org

Warning, 2021 © Mous Lamrabat/ Loft Art Gallery.
Joanna Cresswell

Joanna L. Cresswell is a writer and editor based in Brighton. She has written on photography and culture for over 40 international magazines and journals, and held positions as editor for organisations including The Photographers' Gallery, Unseen Amsterdam and Self Publish, Be Happy. She recently completed an MA in comparative literature and criticism at Goldsmiths College, University of London