Caught up in the mix of religion, art, culture and an eclectic obsession with Mcdonalds; we sit down with the Belgian-Moroccan photographer Mous Lamrabat to get a glimpse inside of the mind of this creator and how his multicultural background shapes who he is.
We have to start off by asking…why are you obsessed with Mcdonalds so much?
Haha well I just love Mcdonalds and I`m crazy about the logo! Its a huge M. So every time I go it`s like a huge welcome sign for me because my name starts with M.
When did you start traveling so much to Morocco for work?
It started a couple of years ago but its been more recently that I`ve been going more and more. I actually see myself moving there part-time a year from now. I have my commercial work in fashion here in Gent, Belgium; but I want to make the transition just for my own personal work and upcoming projects. Just because this country is so inspiring! From the buildings,roads to the bicycles and the vendeurs on the street. It's all art and they are the artists without even knowing it because it is their way of life.
Where is home to you? Morocco or Belgium?
I was born in Morocco but raised in Belgium. We would go back every year. The van packed with 9 kids and a huge cooler strapped on to the roof of the car like a caravan and every single centimeter stuffed with gifts for family and friends back home.I loved it so much and even back then I felt like a part of my heart is Marrakech even though we aren't originally from this city. So I absolutely love it there and then again Belgium is where my family is so wherever they are is home to me too.
How have your Moroccan roots inspired you in this chapter of your artistic direction and creativity?
I think I have always been drawn to cliches especially the ones that exist in Morocco. I use my photography as a medium to draw light to them with an artistic twist. It sparks nostalgia and pride in my audience as well as intrigue and wonder for those who see and maybe not necessarily relate. Plus kiri cheese on everything...EVERYTHING for life.
Tell us about how your upbringing has made an impact in you recreating these “cliches” through art?
When you're a kid being raised in the West all you want to do initially is conform. My parents are authentic in who they are through and through and they definitely raised me and my siblings with traditional Moroccan upbringing. If they hadn't I don't think that I would have these cultural cliches to reference to now that I'm older I realize how important that is and I wouldn't have traded my childhood for anything.
Your first solo exhibition is being held in the city where you are from at the end of January, what are you most excited about?
I`m looking forward for my parents to see my art. They have never seen my work so it will be their first time. They have always been incredibly proud but I don't think they fully understand what it is that I do. I`ve tried to explain but I`m eager for them to see.
Mous...why don't they just google you online and see your work?
My parents don't know google, online...THAT`S HOW OLD SCHOOL THEY ARE! Haha
Is it added pressure knowing your parents will see your photos for the first time ever?
No I`m pretty relaxed about that. I`m more worried that no one will show up.
There`s no way! You have so many fans across the world enjoying your art everyday through instagram! Why would you make that assumption?
Haha I`m definitely teasing...I mean Inshallah a lot of people come! But on a serious note, my work gets a lot of attention outside of Belgium than it does inside. This country is known to be an artistic hub and a lot of talented people come here to learn and create. I feel like when it comes to the Belgian art scene you sometimes have to prove yourself globally before you get the credits right in your own backyard. It's like you need that stamp of approval before you`re accepted here as “one of us”.
So do you think there is a certain level of discrimination because you are not white?
I think it's more because of the fact that the art scene is incredibly competitive here but of course like in all societies discrimination exists…Like for example way back I was working with a photographer and he asked me “So why Mous? Like it`s short for Mohammed right?” Haha like dude...no...Not every brown guy is Mohammed how ignorant can people be haha.
So things like that have happened like it happens for anyone who is a minority anywhere.
Most of my clients here in Belgium are white and they have always been inherently supportive of what I do and so many of them are talented themselves.
So it really depends on who does it...I have a bit of an advantage because people were starting to recognize me for my commercial work in fashion before I dove deep into the Moroccan themed chapter of my art.
So what are you looking forward to in the near future professionally?
So I`m directing a video for an artist called Issam in Casablanca. Before he even contacted me to do his next video I remember checking the others out on youtube and thinking this guy is dope. Three weeks later they contacted me to ask to direct the next one. I don`t know how it is…I think of something and it just comes back around.
So is videography a direction you see yourself going towards? Is that the next chapter?
Honestly I just want to create. I`m so thirsty...to create haha! I have so many ideas in my head and I really want to do them all. I plan on doing them all just not all at once. But yes videos are another element also objects all in the same universe which is super nice.
Is that why you always wear a beanie? So many ideas your hats are like external hard drives?
AHAHAHA yeah...Not enough room in my head also I need to keep them warm and cuddly.
So do you feel like you have a personal obligation as an artist and who you are as an individual to use your talents to create social change? To break stereotypes?
Yes for sure. I definitely feel responsible. I`m Moroccan, Muslim, African, some see me as Arab. A lot of times these aspects that make me are seen in a negative light in the western world. Moroccans are thiefs, Arabs, Muslims are terrorists, Africans are lazy...So I always thought let me show these people what an Moroccan-Arab-Muslim-African-BELGIAN can do.
I want to show people that we are cool and artistic in that part of the world too; that we are the new voice and that we are the next chapter of art and creative expression.
I think a lot of third-culture kids are confused with their identity and depending on whatever social setting you are in you shift based on who you are around. I find it to be a blessing. Weeds out the fake people fast. Because I work in the fashion industry here; sometimes I tell people I work at Mcdonalds just to see what their reaction is. When it's negative and I see someone drop me just because of what they portray my socioeconomic status to be I see it as a blessing in disguise. You see people's true colors sooner rather than later.
Here you go again with Mcdonalds...sounds like you`re a paid sponsor…like it`s your dream to work there.
Haha I did work there! I was 16 and I`d work wednesday evenings and the weekends. Stole a lot of merchandising though...for the M.
No longer surprised
How has your Belgian identity shaped who you are?
I didnt grow up in a creative artistic household and we werent really the type of family that would go to museums on the weekend; so it wasn't until I studied Architecture that I got my first taste of the artistic world. I just felt at home and the way I think and envision things make sense in this universe and I kind of built off of that.
What`s your Guilty Pleasure?
I don`t know what`s yours?
I`m interviewing you…
I still want to know haha
Answer the question!
I`m so cool with myself that I don`t have one.
Okay so we`re going to write that your Guilty Pleasure in thinking you`re the Moroccan Madonna…
No...the Moroccan Kanye.
I`d like to thank me….