Habib Hajallie - Like a Monkey

Tell us a bit about yourself and your practice

Born in Southeast London, I am a 22 year old, recent Fine Art Graduate from Loughborough University. My Sierra Leonean and Lebanese heritage tends to feed directly into my practice. I look to convey a sense of empowerment to often marginalised ethnic groups in the western world, through the exploration of cultural identity. Within my practice, I seek to create a discourse regarding society’s perception of people to be of varying humanistic values. With the disenfranchised lower earners and ethnic minorities usually being undermined by the mainstream media. This hierarchy of status shows a somewhat paradoxical reflection of colonial ideals in relation to the transatlantic slave trade. My intrigue in using found objects as canvases for my works has been a constant within my practice. This process of bringing new value to often disregarded items creates a cohesion between the concepts behind the work and the aesthetic output. As I seek to empower various figures; I simultaneously seek to do so with the ground used. The regular use of biro pen enables me to use traditional draughtsman techniques, taking influence from Da Vinci’s sketches during the high renaissance. Through an almost contradictory process of using the relatively modern art medium, the biro with this classical approach to mark making: I look to bring portraiture back to the forefront of contemporary art.

What made you decide to apply for this year’s Winter Pride Art Awards?

I applied for this award, as i believe that the artwork I submitted, ‘Like a Monkey’, embodies a discourse regarding ethnic identity that would best be suited to the theme of the competition.

Why do you think it’s important that art is used to open up the discussion around LGBT+ issues and how do you think your practice interacts with these issues?

The most concise phrase that represents my practice conceptually as a whole would be ‘minority empowerment’. As to say, that even as heterosexual man I empathise deeply with the LGBT community regarding the search for equality for all in overall society. Art has always been used as vessel for creating a discussion. As contemporary artists, we have a responsibility to question the status quo and challenge outdated institutions and oppressive ideologies that still remain.

Can you tell us a little about the piece you’re exhibiting in reference to this year’s theme of ‘Beyond the Binaries’?

Whilst getting an ECG scan in 2016, I was likened to a monkey by the nurse of whom was carrying out the procedure. As one would expect, I was taken aback. In response to this notion of subtle or not so subtle prejudice; I seek to take ownership of an insult that I have experienced on multiple occasions as a young ethnic male. By assuming the animalistic pose of a monkey holding a banana, which also acts as motif of masculinity with the clear phallic symbolism, I attempt to use this rhetoric to bring my experience into a new paradigm that may resonate with others who have had similar experiences.

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