Meryem Slimani & Najate Leklye
26 Nov 2021 – 30 Jan 2022
The colourful portraits and still lives of Meryem Slimani are a delight to look at. The styling of her sets create a unique dream world for each shot. Whether it is the layering of hypnotic blue and green curtains, or a pink tulle draped over a wash line glittering in the sun, every image is staged for maximum visual appeal. Meryem humbly credits this spectacle to her heritage: “People ask how I find the colours for my photos but if you go to Morocco, that’s just the reality. Every door has a different colour. The light is different there.”
Meryem curates this light and colour to set the stage for her subject, her mother Najate Leklye. She is the muse for each photograph. For one series, Meryem captures her mother in her own backyard in Schoonhoven. The budding roses are the exact shade of pink that is embroidered into the sleeves of the traditional garment Najate is wearing.
Meryem’s eye for colour has a therapeutic effect. By selecting one colour and fanning it out into a spectrum of its hues, she presents compositions that are opulent but never overwhelming. The multitudes of patterns come together and create a perfect balance. In the same way, she plays with her compositions, which are deceivingly simple. Meryem creates visual intrigue in straight-forward portraits with playful posing and props, layers of textiles and accessories, or simply the intimacy of a close-up from a unique angle.
For this exhibition, Umi, which means my mother in Arabic. Meryem styles her mother to celebrate her two main influences: Morocco and Hip Hop. They are evident in each shot, sometimes overtly in a tribute to artist The Notorious B.I.G., inspired by a photograph of Dana Lixenberg, where Najate is pairing a green and golden hijab with the iconic sweater, while counting her blessings.