Artists at El Fenn
As the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair kicks off in Marrakech, we take a look at some of the continent’s brightest talents that feature in the El Fenn collection.
Yemeni-Bosnian-US artist Alia Ali worked on two editions of the Marrakech Biennale before forging her own path as an artist. Working in multimedia to examine gender, politics, media and citizenship, she’s exhibited across America and Europe and her work has been acquired by the British Museum and Princeton University. New work is on display at El Fenn throughout February.
Humanity, dignity and identity pulsate through Leila Alaoui’s work. The French Moroccan photographer, who believed in the power of art and social activism, travelled nationwide with a mobile studio to capture her iconic portrait series The Moroccans. On assignment in Burkina Faso for UN Women and Amnesty International, she was caught in a terrorist attack and died aged 33.
Hassan Hajjaj was born in Morocco and moved to England aged 12. He’s since shot Billie Eilish for Vogue and everyone from Cardi B to Will Smith for his trademark maximalist portraits. But Moroccan people, culture and the beauty of ‘everyday’ objects remain the ever present root of his work. The ‘Warhol of Marrakech’ is also known for transforming everyday objects like slippers or footballs into art.
Born in Spain to Moroccan parents, Anwar Khalifa focuses on portraiture in his colour-drenched work. Self-taught at his mother’s kitchen table, his paintings often examine his Moroccan heritage, Spanish upbringing and an identity in flux.
After studying at the renowned Parsons School of Design in New York, Rita Alaoui started her career as a painter. She’s since expanded into painting, photography and sculpture but the French Moroccan artist consistently returns to the force of nature in her work.
Gender inequality and social conventions are cleverly questioned by Moroccan artist Batoul S’Himi. For her World Under Pressure series, she transformed everyday kitchenware – pressure cookers, gas canisters and kitchen knives – into works that question women’s subservience, the history of cartography and increasing unrest.
The South African photographer started out as a photojournalist working freelance for agencies including Reuters before going on to document some of the most troubled aspects of life in sub Saharan Africa. The effects of apartheid in South Africa, child soldiers in the Congo and refugees in Angola have all featured.