No Pasara by Leila Alaoui, 2008. Courtesy Fondation Leila Alaoui & GALLERIA CONTINUA (1)
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Rite of Passage is the first major UK retrospective of works from the celebrated French-Moroccan photographer, video artist and activist Leila Alaoui. The exhibition is presented by Somerset House and 1-54 Contemporary African Art fair.

Acclaimed for capturing and preserving the unseen stories of individuals and communities displaced by conflict and unrest, Rite of Passage offers an intimate portrait into the rich cultural identities and resilience of societies facing difficult and uncertain realities. The subjects of Alaoui’s works are pictured across the contemporary Mediterranean landscape and beyond, from Syrian refugees fleeing civil war in Lebanon to young North Africans seeking an alternative future in Europe. Tragically, Alaoui was killed whilst working on a photography project for a women’s rights campaign for Amnesty International in Burkina Faso in 2016. She was critically wounded during a terrorist attack in Ouagadougou, passing away from her injuries shortly afterwards at the age of 33.

Rite of Passage showcases three of Alaoui’s defining series of photographic works created between 2008 and 2014 – Les Marocains (2010-14), No Pasara (2008) and Natreen (2013).Throughout each series, Alaoui seeks to challenge the often cliched portrayals and exoticisation of North Africa and the Arab world to present a nuanced narrative of the region, its inhabitants and immigration. The exhibition also presents Alaoui’s final unfinished video work L’Île du Diable (Devil’s Island) (2015), which explores the lives of a 1960’s generation of dispossessed migrant workers in France. Showing great sensitivity towards her subjects, Alaoui’s images are both informed yet artistic, giving a human face to the people who often become lost and misrepresented behind waves of news coverage and statistics.

The exhibition is on view until the 28th of February however In line with the new government guidance Somerset House will be closed to the public from Thu 05 Nov until at least Wed 02 Dec so the virtual exhibition tour will be the only way audiences can see the exhibition during that time period.

Here’s a virtual exhibition tour by Somerset House.

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