Twin bothers Hasan and Husain Essop showed their work at an exhibition called Refuge at the Goodman Gallery in August 2017. The Muslim brothers who are from Cape Town used this exhibition to raise questions about what it means to be Muslim in a world which is increasingly Islamophobic. The exhibition is largely influenced by the Syrian civil war and comprises of the Essops trademark photographs, an installation and a video.
The images above – Saudi Man and Dark Imaam are a twist on our perception of ‘superheroes’ within western pop culture. Hollywood movies and televisions shows are usually based on the tropes of white, male hero figures who represent the forces of good while the villains are often cultural ‘others’ – black, Asian or Muslim. The Essop brothers make us question what happens when the superheroes bear signs commonly associated with Islam.
The installation Are we there yet? featuring a dinghy, oars and clothes strewn behind is a chilling reference to the thousands of refugees who flee from religious violence. Besides crossing dangerous seas in flimsy vessels, these people then land in countries where they are treated with open hostility.
Since Islam forbids the representation of religious and human figures in art – the brothers choose to use only their own images in their works. They use photographic techniques and different guises to create the multiple images of themselves found in each picture.
As devout Muslims who believe their faith offers peace and spiritual fulfillment, the brothers use their work to examine negative propaganda, the rise of extremist terror groups and the displacement of people due to religious differences.
Hasan and Husain Essop’s works will also be shown at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown (2018).