Marrakesh, Morocco is a city overrun with motorcycles, and female bikers are as common as male.

In "Kesh Angels," photographer Hassan Hajjaj documents the rowdy female biker culture of Marrakesh, which defies stereotypes of Muslim women.

The models in these photos are Hajjaj's friends, and he designs their outfits himself, using knock-off brand-name fabrics he buys at London and Marrakesh markets.

“Hajjaj’s approach is to toy with the perceptions of Arabic culture and the relationship between East and West, recasting iconic images and allowing shafts of 21st-century light to reenergize the encounter,” critic Kelly Carmichael wrote in her 2010 essay in Contemporary Practices.

They have a superhero quality on these motorcycles, mugging and posing like urban Power Rangers.

Hajjaj taught himself photography in the 1980s, after working as a D.J., interior designer, and a promoter.

The artist built the frames for his biker photographs from everyday objects, like soda cans, boxes of chicken stock, and Legos printed with Arabic letters.

Photo Essay: The Biker Chicks Of Marrakesh

Photographer Hassan Hajjaj documents the culture of Moroccan women bikers in eye-popping color.

You’ve probably never seen a biker gang quite like this. In photographer Hassan Hajjaj’s latest series, “Kesh Angels,” the lady motorcyclists of Marrakesh, Morocco wear polka-dot abaya and Nike-branded djellaba, posing on their bikes against brightly-painted walls. The juxtaposition of traditional Islamic dress with biker-tough posturing and Western branding upends stereotypes of Muslim women as anti-modern and ultra-conservative. They have a superhero quality on these motorcycles, mugging and posing like urban Power Rangers.

The 53-year-old Hajjaj was born in Marrakesh but grew up in London, where he was obsessed with clubbing, hip-hop, and reggae, influences reflected in the eye-popping color schemes of these photographs. The models are his friends, and he designs their outfits himself, using knock-off brand-name fabrics he buys at London and Marrakesh markets.



Hajjaj taught himself photography in the 1980s, after working as a D.J., interior designer, and a promoter. His forays into interior design included furniture he built from recycled objects in North Africa, like Coca-Cola crate stools or lamps made from old tin cans. The artist still turns trash into treasure: the frames for his biker photographs are made from everyday objects, like soda cans, boxes of chicken stock, and Legos printed with Arabic letters.

Marrakesh is a city overrun with motorcycles, and female bikers are as common as male. Motorcycling is seen as a convenient form of transportation. Not so in the States, where being a “biker chick” still has a certain taboo. “Hajjaj’s approach is to toy with the perceptions of Arabic culture and the relationship between East and West, recasting iconic images and allowing shafts of 21st-century light to reenergize the encounter,” art critic Kelly Carmichael once wrote about the artist.

Kesh Angels is on view now at Taymour Grahne Gallery in New York until March 7th.

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2 Comments

  • Jennifer King

    I find this really confusing. It's positioned as "Moroccan" but having spent time in Morocco, most women don't seem to wear face veils (or djellabahs that look anything like this). Granted I'm by no means an expert, but this seems like a complete mischaracterization. I live in Chicago. If you dress me up in a Santa Claus costume, put me on a motorcycle and take a picture of me, is it really accurate to portray me as being representative of "biker chicks of Chicago"?

  • Youssef Badraoui Kassemi

    Face veils are fairly common, as is the custom made Jellaba, women riding bikes and motorbikes, and louis vouiton babouches are on sale. As an art form, photographers have all latitude to warp the world through their lense to get their message accross. It's not documentary or photojournalism, it's art.