If you walk into my parents' home, you won’t see a picture on the wall. The walls are completely blank. There’s nothing there, you know. And it’s so strange that her sons became artists. There’s this idea in Islam that it’s not very permissible to put up pictures of people on your wall and we grew up with that. My mother told us from a young age because we were artists and used to draw, she used to tell us anything you draw that has life, you are going to have to give life to it. When we came to this we realised and when I saw what Hasan was doing immediately I thought of what my mother said. It’s like he’s managed to find a loophole. Use yourself – any judgment that occurs is going to be only on yourself.
Hasan: In the beginning what we drew as inspiration in our work was a lot to do with pop culture. We are very attracted to the media, how the media is used to seduce us and that kind of imagery. We struggled – in our first, second, third year we really struggled in finding that kind of subject matter that’s going to ground us. We had an idea of how to establish … but I think only in our fourth year did we really learn to do that. You need something solid to build on.
It starts with the idea. We have to have a concept, a theme that’s going through to make this body of work. The theme in the beginning was this kind of eastern-western conflict, but also in the environment of Cape Town, capturing Muslim life, Islamic life, in Cape Town. Then Husein and I, we speak about the photographs. It’s quite ... I think that’s …
Husein: That’s the most difficult part.
Hasan: So we are creating works in our mind and conversing and debating about it until we both have an agreement. We kind of both have a similar image in our mind and then we would go into the location …
Husein: Set up our tripod, set up the camera, do a few CDs of shots to see if the colour’s right, then Hasan will do a series of performance. I’ll try to guide him to say like ‘occupy this space, occupy that space’, remember not to occupy the same space, maybe with a different character, because you don’t want to overlap the characters. And then after his series of performance, he would come behind the camera and again just to see the results, releasing the shutter. I will then do my series of performance – and like that.
Hasan: This photograph is called ‘The Night Before Eid’. The night before Eid is in the month of Ramadan, the month of fasting. The last night the community …
Husein: It’s shot at 3 o’clock in the morning, there’s smoke everywhere, the light source is the fire, there’s eating of food … The other shot that Hasan spoke about was the abattoir where he photographed the sheep being slaughtered in the same angle. So the camera had the same picture – at every pot there’s a sheep hanging. So the two photographs kind of work together where the sheep are slaughtered during the day and the food is cooked during the night.
Hasan: That night we spent kind of waiting for the right time to take the photograph because if you can see, by each pot there are about five people working on that pot. So to get them to take a break and to get them in the corner … everybody, poor or rich, get to share a meal on that day.
Husein: It’s amazing that with animation you can actually see how where he ends up, I actually start. We didn’t even know we were doing that. So exactly we know … we just know how our bodies work. I know that Hasan is there and I try to interact with him, even though he’s not there, while I’m doing my performance. When the camera is secured onto the ground, whatever it sees is our stage – it’s our stage to perform – us being all the actors, you know.
If you look at what’s happening today, youth are going through this inner struggle. Where on the one side they have the teachings and on the other side they have this pop culture that they want to belong to. We are kind of an example of that – we love dancing, we love movies, we love music, we love everything, but then we have the strict teachings of Islam that forbids us to do certain things and we say ‘Oh, we want to do this …’ So we are constantly fighting with ourselves to say can’t we do just a little bit of that now and go all the way, so don’t punish me and the fear that we have is that the generation that is going to come isn’t going to have that, they’re not going to look at religion, so the religion is going to die.
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