Photographer Mous Lamrabat on his latest exhibition: “I’m back at the point of creating with my gut”
The past few years have seen Mous Lamrabat go from strength to strength thanks, in part, to his creative collaborations with fellow Maghrebi talents. And now a partnership with WhatsApp, for his latest photographic collection “There’s No One Like Us”, celebrates his cultural origin and unheard stories of different regions—including his own.
The project, he tells me, includes a series of intimate portraits with corresponding interviews spotlighting the beauty of Brazil, India, Morocco and Mexico, with the aim of poignantly capturing their individualism in an increasingly connected world.
Born into a second generation immigrant family, Lamrabat soon moved from the small town of Temsaman, Morocco to Belgium at the age of two. Appreciating the places and faces that carried his generation, Lamrabat is at the forefront of a creative renaissance of individuals who are amplifying the voices of their overlooked communities.
“I felt like there were so many similarities with them, like aesthetically I share the same house, the food, the topics they talk about, the way they talk about home, the way they talk about the place they’re living in right now and that’s when that thought came to me, there’s no one like us,” he says, eager to forge more connections with those along the MENA region. “There’s no one that has these experiences and these talks that we have and it’s very unique.”
Much of his work is inspired by the very communities that raised him— the friends of friends, ‘uncles’ and neighbours who were and continue to be a guiding light throughout their lives. “Collaborating can only make you as an artist stronger because having two great minds together is always better for creativity than one,” he tells me over the phone from his studio in Belgium.
By evoking feelings of longing and belonging, he is crossing cultural boundaries. Looking towards the past, the photographer documents ancestry and how it influences the generations that follow and is never afraid of asserting his identity through his intimate images.
There is not one definitive element that inspires his process. It’s instinctive and comes as organically to him as breathing. He admits to only just “being ok” with “not knowing an exact definition of what my work is. It’s just who I am as a person. The thing that interests me, the things that I like, the things I don’t like and all that put together creates my photos,” he tells me. “I don’t really belong in the art world because in my eyes, I’m not creating art. I’m just creating what comes naturally.”
Though, it must be acknowledged that diaspora stories are different from person to person. For the photographer, who grew up in a white-dominated Belgium school, Lamrabat never fitted the mould. Rather than repressing who he is, he began to merge his Western and Moroccan influences— wearing baggy clothes, listening to 90s hip-hop whilst in the same breath, playing basketball and dipping fresh bread in a tagine home cooked by his mother. “I felt different, there’s super simple examples, kids in school were like, what’s that smell? Why are your fingers yellow? You know these questions, they weren’t an attack but sometimes felt like it,” he says.
Speaking up for himself, he took pride in his heritage, harnessing an innate level of acceptance of his differences. And now, Lamrabat is going one step further, you only have to look at his latest offering. Always looking for new projects to take on in a bid to challenge his practice, he is willing to confront stereotypes surrounding race and ethnicity in what can be a rather narrow-minded art and fashion world.
And the battle for inclusivity rages on, with conversations surrounding diversity always in the culture paradigm. “We became immune to horrible images on the news and for me, it makes sense to create that awareness within my own work in a very subtle way.”
Yet he is not naive to the strides the industry must take in order to be more inclusive. “Using people of colour and those from the diaspora is a very small start for me. People want to improve, but they’ll only improve in the socially accepted ways.”
He agrees that the framing of fashion can be very reductive. “There are so many buzzwords relating to diversity. We are not a trend. We are here to stay. We’re not leaving. We will have kids here. We are a part of something bigger, not just an opportunity to sell something.”
Through his work, he aims to showcase the depth of North Africa’s culture, particularly when it comes to fashion: “it is full of creativity, it’s not just a poor continent. I mean Africa is booming right now, region to region. It’s insane. I am very happy young artists are celebrating their culture so it never dies,” he says.
As we are about to bid each other goodbye, I ask him what he hopes for the future? He thinks for a moment, “What I hope is that people feel less marginalised and less alone.”
“I’m growing as an artist but I’m back at the point of creating with my gut and I am excited to have more fun, working with more artists like me in the future.”
Exhibiting in London at The Tab Centre, 3 Godfrey Pl, London E2 7NT May 12 to 14