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The power of a picture

The Croft Magazine // Sanjana Idnani considers the lessons Hassan Hajjaj’s, The Path, may be able to educate today's travellers.

By Sanjana Idnani, Travel Sub-Editor

The Croft Magazine // Sanjana Idnani considers the lessons Hassan Hajjaj’s, The Path, may be able to educate today's travellers.

Back in Bristol, waiting for the start of term  and seeking to fill empty days, I decided to do some local sightseeing. After a relaxed spot of window shopping at Park Street and some sun basking at the harbourside, I finished at Arnolfini: Bristol’s internationally renowned hub for contemporary arts. Having never been before, I arrived expecting to spend a typical artsy day in a new place. However, as I entered Hassan Hajjaj’s exhibition The Path, I was transported into a world of far grander scale.

Hassan Hajjaj is a Moroccan-British photographer, whose work explores the act of journeys, starting with his own from Morocco to London. The first section, Between,  showcases how Hassan navigates his everyday life in London but the exhibition quickly removes us from the familiar and lifts us into a world of movement, vibrance, and fun.

What strikes me about Hajjaj’s work is the sensory experience he creates for the wanderers who roam about his exhibition. As you enter, you hear an eclectic set of beats in a distant auditorium, reflecting the personal set of rockstars Hajjaj has collected along his travels , and reminiscent of the mix of different lives and cultures you drift in and out of whilst globetrotting.

Hajjaj adds to this experience by using various brands in the framing of his work. A familiar can of Sprite - green, yellow, white - but with the name itself written in Arabic, is emblematic of the globalisation that has come to dominate travel: you are reminded of the plethora and richness of the dialects and culture around you.

By juxtaposing everyday brands with splashes of colour in his photography, we are struck with the blend of familiarity and difference that connect us internationally: the sense that there is a common and yet diverse experience stretching out across the planet.

Though acknowledging its undeniable presence, Hajjaj doesn’t simply frame his perspective on global culture around a Western and commercialised model. This is most poignantly realised in the section ‘Darrak Marrakchia’ in which Moroccan women stand in power poses - assertive - challenging the common portrayal of them as oppressed and silent.

This striking reclamation of identity, culture, and representation comes with a great message for us travellers : seek colour, animation, beauty. Question your expectations. Do not project a monolithic outlook upon the multi-faceted world around us. The Path reminded me that it is wonder, newness, and boldness that I seek when I travel and I hope to rekindle these feelings when I begin to take journeys once again.

Hajjaj’s exhibition is running till the 1st of November at the Arnolfini.

Featured Image: Epigram / Sanjana Idnani