UNREST: Hasan and Husain Essop



Hasan and Husain Essop

Standard Bank Young Artist 2014

Opening: Wednesday 4 March at 7pm

Speaker: Prof Lucius Botes, Dean of the Faculty of the Humanities, UFS

Walkabout with the artists: Thursday 5 March at 10am

Twenty eight year old twin brothers Hasan and Husain Essop are the winners of the 2014 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Visual Art. 

Born and raised in Cape Town, the twins have been collaborating since their graduation from the Michaelis School of Fine Art in 2007. They both completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts and Postgraduate Diploma in Art at Michaelis, and subsequently Postgraduate Certificates in Education, at the University of Cape Town.

The twins graduated with individual bodies of work, but when they were approached by the Goodman Gallery in 2007, they proposed the idea of collaborating and making art together - the first time they ever worked together. “Growing up, Husain and I were close but also apart,” explains Hasan. “We went to school together, and lived in the same house but we had different friends, likes and interests, and developed different identities and skills which we then brought together when working together.” Husain specialised in Photography and makes all the important technical decisions when setting up a shoot. Hasan specialised in Printmaking and therefore has a lot more freedom in the post-production and printing of the work. They both contribute to the subject matter and editing of the photographs, always discussing new ideas and locations to shoot. They speak very visually to each other and many ideas are born from their conversations; using popular culture, the media and Hollywood as inspiration because those are the things that interest the youth and forming the next generation.

“There are many things that drive, motivate and inspire me. My religion and spiritual belief - in my opinion - is the most important, as this guides my life, creative process and subject matter. I love art and everything that comes with it. At times it is extremely controversial and challenges my beliefs, but I am motivated to find a balance between religion and art. My community and culture, traditions and religion are subjects that I feel that have not been explored and this provides an opportunity to portray ideas to people that have not encountered them before.” says Hasan.

“Our series of work highlights a multi-cultural clash between religion and popular cultures,” say the Essops. “We explore the dominating influence of Western theatrics and those narratives that are constructed to depict a certain reality. Inspired by Hollywood’s visual language and tactics, we create our own narratives. Each photograph reflects us in a battle of moral, religious and cultural conflicts. Two dominant personalities appear, East and West with all their stereotypes. Environments are chosen as stages on which to perform and define our behaviours.”

Over the past few years the brothers have been establishing themselves in various parts of the world. During 2009 they completed a residency in Cuba (coinciding with the inclusion of their work on Integration and Resistance in the Global Age at the Havana Biennale) and facilitated a workshop on invitation from the University of Hamburg, Germany. They were selected for the Dakar Biennale in 2010, and credit the recognition they received from taking part in the Spier Contemporary exhibition (2007 and 2010) as big boosts for their career. Their work has appeared in several group shows, including the ABSA L’Atelier in Johannesburg, Power Play at Goodman Gallery Cape, Peekaboo Current South Africa at The Helsinki Museum in Finland, and Figures & Fictions: Contemporary South African Photography at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The brothers took part in a residency at the Thami Mneyele Foundation in Amsterdam in 2011, holding their first solo exhibition in the Middle East at the Isabelle van den Eynde Gallery, in Dubai, titled Indelible Marks, in the same year.

The Essops’ work has been included in various private and public collections, including the Spier Collection, the Durban Art Gallery and the South African National Gallery. The Goodman Gallery has hosted two solo exhibitions of their work – Halaal Art (2010, Johannesburg) and Remembrance (2012, Cape Town).

“Becoming an artist has been a dream come true, but at the same time extremely difficult. To have a twin brother who shares your experiences and qualifications, and that is driven, is in my opinion the leading factor in our success.” says Hasan.

There have been many proud moments in their career, including a visit from Sir Elton John to their parents’ home in Rylands to buy some of their work; and being selected by Puma to create a design for the national soccer team jersey, which Bafana Bafana have been wearing since 2011; but the twins remain, foremost, committed to their families and community.

Both working full time as educators in boys’ schools in Cape Town, they focus a lot of energy on developing and maintaining their skills. “I believe that in order to share knowledge you need to have it, and therefore teaching has made me a better person and artist” explains Hasan. “I love being kept busy and my mind busy as it keeps me sharp and ready to embrace new challenges and obstacles,” he says.  

They look forward to their first trip to the National Arts Festival, and compiling their first print catalogue, as offshoots of winning the Standard Bank Young Artist Award. Motivated by the influence of significant teachers in their own lives, they hope to inspire others, especially the youth through education, and thus leave a positive legacy in South African Art.

For more on their work, please see: www.goodman-gallery.com/artists/hasanhusainessop

The other recipients of the 2014 Standard Bank Young Artist Award are Jahmil XT Qubeka for Film, Nicola Elliott for Dance, Kyle Shepherd for Jazz, Njabulo Madlala for Music, Donna Kukama for Performance Art, and Greg Homann for Theatre.

About The Standard Bank Young Artist Awards:

The Young Artist Awards were started in 1981 by the National Arts Festival to acknowledge emerging, relatively young South African artists who have displayed an outstanding talent in their artistic endeavours. These prestigious awards are presented annually to deserving artists in different disciplines, affording them national exposure and acclaim. Standard Bank took over the sponsorship of the awards in 1984 and has presented Young Artist Awards in all the major arts disciplines over their 30-year sponsorship, as well as posthumous and special recognition awards. The winners feature on the main programme of the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown and receive financial support for their Festival participation, as well as a cash prize.

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