Twin brothers, Hassan and Hussain Essop were born in Cape Town, South Africa. Having studied a BA Fine Arts at the University of Cape Town, they both graduated with a Post-Graduate Diploma in 2009 and a Postgraduate Certificate in Education in 2013. In 2007, the brothers presented their first commercial solo exhibition at the Goodman Gallery, titled Halaal Art.
Working collaboratively, the brothers delve into the realities and representations of the Muslim community and explore the tensions experienced by Muslim youth within a secular environment.
The dualities of popular culture versus religious beliefs and the nuanced experience versus the dominant Western narrative of the Muslim religion provide the basis of their exploration, using photography to narrate and pit these stereotypes against one another.
To photograph or represent the body is haram (the Arabic term used to describe anything which is forbidden by Allah) in the Muslim community. The brothers, therefore, use their own bodies, creating a photographic collage that also allows them to explore the similarities and differences experienced as twins within their culture. Their work straddles the local context with its imagery and iconography but relates and links to a global context of the Muslim experience of religion, war and class.
The use of costume allows the brothers to take on various personae with its associated stereotypes and connotations. These can be seen reflected in the use of environments and international brands that denote class distinctions and personae of different characters.
“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.” Hasan & Husain Essop, Artist Statement, Goodman Gallery Website (Accessed 2017).
The brothers received the 2014 Standard Bank Young Artists award and exhibited their solo body of work, Unrest, a travelling exhibition hosted across South Africa in Grahamstown, Port Elizabeth, Durban, Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Johannesburg, Potchefstroom. They have also exhibited in several group shows both locally and internationally, including South: Contemporary Art from Australia, Mexico and South Africa at Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre (Gymea, Australia: 2014), Integration and Resistance in the Global Age at the Tenth Havana Biennale (Havana, Cuba: 2010) and Power Play at Goodman Gallery (Cape Town, South Africa: 2008).