5 things to check out at Sole DXB
The intersection of sneaker culture, music and street art has been long established, going back to New York City in the mid-1970s and the birth of the hip-hop era. Cemented by Run DMC and their unashamed love of Adidas “shell-toe” Superstars – worn without laces, of course – the trio has become a colorful venn diagram of urban cool.
As one of the fastest developing cities in the planet, Dubai represents a blank canvas for kids from across Asia, North Africa and Europe inspired by US street culture. The annual Sole DXB even at Dubai Design District provides a platform for that to take shape, both as a means of showcasing local creativity but also some big-bucks corporations to fly in some of the most influential names in the game to inspire, motivate and encourage the scene.
If old-skool sneakers, graffiti and break beats are your thing, you need to keep reading.
CAPTURING THE SOLE
We speak to photographer Hassan Hajjaj, the man who shot the Sole DXB 2015 campaign material is Moroccan
An ambassador of Arab swag is one way of describing Hassan Hajjaj. Moroccan born and London raised, he immersed himself in the UK capital’s reggae and later hip-hop scenes of the late 1970s and early 1980s before picking up a camera and developing his entirely self-created colourful portraiture style – incorporating elements of fashion and installation. His work has since been seen in galleries as prestigious as London’s Victoria and Albert Museum and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.
So, where’s home for you right now?
For the last 20 years, I’ve been living between London and Marrakech. When you’re born in a place, as you get older you need that thing in the blood a little bit.
As an Arab, what are your thoughts on Dubai and the culture here?
When I first came in 2007, it was like a building site. Then in 2011, it felt like a city that was starting to connect together and, last year, it felt like it was taking its form, like a teenager becoming an adult. It does have a Western vibe about it and the local people are such a small percentage. Dubai feels like it was built by a computer, new technology. It feels contemporary and up-to-date
Is there a chance for us – Arabs and non-Arabs – to create a Dubai culture here?
The great thing about Dubai is that it creates platforms for it. Like Sole DXB, like the galleries that bring art, music and design. It’s definitely become like New York. It’s a modern city and it’s presenting Arabs and the Arab World in a new way.
So what are Sole and what are you going be doing here?
I’m going to be here shooting for Sole DXB, hopefully Mobb Deep. I’ll have my own space with Amine Bendriouich with a DJ, an area to hang. It’s a nice little project.
Is there anything at Sole you’re looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to all of it, because it’s what I’ve grown up with in London. It’s offering music, art, sports, trainers… I have a friend called Melody Ehsani from LA, she’s an Iranian jewellery designer and she’s coming. She’s never been to Dubai before.
What was your big break?
I left school with no qualifications and was unemployed. I got involved with underground parties and through that became an assistant stylist on fashion shows. Another friend was doing music videos and I worked with him. That was my schooling. I then bought a camera, a 35mm Pentax, in 1989. I went out and shoot for myself for years. Eventually, Rose Issa, a curator friend of mine, asked her to see my photos. She liked them, showed them and then I went out and worked really hard. My first show was in 2000.
What advice would you give to artists to make it in the long run?
I’m not really a good person to ask for advice. You have to have passion, you have to work hard, you have to be a soldier. When you’re doing something creative, that’s great, but if you want to make a living out of it, you have to think like a businessman. You have to keep working, get involved in groups, push your work …
Do you collect trainers at all?
Nah. not really, I missed that. It’s like a new generation that’s collecting all this stuff. I collected stamps when I was younger!