Despite Morocco’s reputation for being inhospitable to women, Hajjaj says Morocco has a vibrant culture of independent females.
“If you take a person who doesn’t travel and who watches TV, they might view Morocco as another Syria or Iraq,” Hajjaj told CNN in a recent interview. “But it’s its own country with its own vibe.”
To depict the “vibe” of Morocco, Hajjaj created portraits of women riding motorbikes, which are a central part of Moroccan culture. While these motorbike-riding women don’t constitute actual “gangs,” the women, many of whom have full-time careers and families, can be found riding their bikes all over Morocco and the city of Marrakesh.
Hajjaj shared some of the photos from the series, playfully called “‘Kesh Angels,” and you can see the rest at the Taymour Grahne Gallery in New York.
This translates into women who lead independent careers, while also wearing the 'djellabah' robe and observing many of the more traditional parts of Moroccan culture.
Because of the winding streets of Marrakesh's historic center, almost all Moroccans ride motorbikes to get around.
Hajjaj calls these women tough, saying that many are full-time mothers, who work 10-hour days and speak five languages.
Hajjaj calls Karima 'one of my heroes.' Karima is a full-time henna artist, who is married with two kids.
Hajjaj took inspiration from pop culture, such as the movie 'Easy Rider,' MTV, hip-hop, and fashion for the project.
The borders of each photograph are actually hand-made frames, constructed of found objects like soda cans.
Many in Morroco sew or iron on the logos of popular fashion brands like Nike to 'keep up with the Westerners,' Hajjaj says.
Much of the difficulty in improving gender equality in Morocco lies with a legal system constricted by Islam.
Morocco's King Mohammed VI has made efforts to reform the legal system, but it is slow-going. Many Moroccans, like the women Hajjaj photographed, have taken it upon themselves to go around the legal system to get the rights they desire.
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