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Traditional Muslim Imagery Meets Global Backdrops in Photographer’s Ramadan Project

Traditional Muslim Imagery Meets Global Backdrops in Photographer’s Ramadan Project

A new photography project collected over the course of the holy month of Ramadan is making waves around the Islamic world. Brought from the imagination of Belgian-Moroccan photographer Mous Lamrabat, the photographs combine traditional Muslim imagery with local styles and modern backgrounds.

Lamrabat said that the project was started as a way to give people something to do during an isolated Ramadan. However, as photos started coming in from those taking part in the project, Lamrabat saw how each photo intertwined an unmistakably Muslim aesthetics with the cultures and backdrops of each individual location that the photos originated from.

“We all knew that Ramadan 2020 was going to be different”

The brainchild of the photography project that ended up involving hundreds of Muslims from around the world is Belgian-Moroccan photographer Mous Lamrabat. Lambarat’s work has always been distinct in combining traditional Islamic imagery with modern backdrops and fashions, often with touches of corporate imagery. Indeed, “brands” and the role they play in our lives is a recurring theme of Lamrabat’s art.

As the coronavirus-related lockdowns became widespread in the world, many Muslims, including Lamrabat, realised that the holy month would look very different this year. Knowing that a lot of people were upset about being alone and isolated, Lamrabat took to Instagram to call on people around the world to join him in a simple project that would give them something to do: Take a photo where they raise their prayer rugs by the corners in a way to cover their face. He said that he was always fascinated by prayer rugs and how each of them had a different colour and style.

He said he expected about a dozen responses best. But by the end of the first day, he already had about a 100.

“People were very enthusiastic to participate”

Alongside hundreds of photos, Lamrabat also received messages about how the project gave the participants a sense of connection with others around the world.

“The emails also made me realise how many people had to spend Ramadan on their own, and that it was a very lonely period for them,” he said, noting how feeling like they were all working together for something had been therapeutic for them.

The photos themselves come from many countries, including Britain, the United States, Morocco, Germany, Egypt. In the photos, a relatively-austere rug taken in a traditional Maghrebi home contrasts against an intricate rug carried by someone with golden sneakers at a Florida parking lot. A photo taken in a modern living room contrasts against that taken on a roof which itself contrasts against one taken in a lush green meadow.  In one photo, the “rug” is simply a very large leaf of a plant, showing all the different ways Muslims find ways to pray.

Lamrabat hopes that he can exhibit the photos someday, maybe even in the entry hall of a mosque. He is well aware of the sensibilities involved in holding an exhibition at a place of worship but feels that the photos and what they represent is pure enough to not be seen as haram.

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