Soufiane Ababri is tired of the status quo. Angry at society’s underlying racist, sexist, homophobic and transphobic biases, Soufiane’s work is characterised by a political agency. The Tangier-born artist has been living in France for the past 14 years since studying at the National School of Decorative Arts and completing a master’s at Lyon’s School of Fine Arts. “My drawings tell the stories of the communities in which I belong. I am a homosexual North African immigrant who is part of a small middle class in a postcolonial generation. My experiences are central to my drawings and I hope they can highlight some of society’s stigmas,” Soufiane tells us.
Sex and desire are central to Soufiane’s work. His vibrant, homoerotic artworks shine a much-needed light on the daily discrimination and violence faced by LGBTQ+ people across the world. One example of Soufiane’s politically-charged work is his drawing of a protestor holding up a poster of two men kissing above the words “Don’t Shoot”. The tender image is at the centre of Soufiane’s piece and serves as a painful reminder of the fearful emotions experienced by communities worldwide that are targeted on the grounds of who they love. Other examples include his sexually explicit drawings of men masturbating or erotically-charged close-ups of a man’s bulging groin. In this way, Soufiane unapologetically presents us with the world as he sees it through his arresting pencil drawings.
“I go back to Tangier regularly for work purposes and I’m sure this must play a role in my colour choices. But I also intend to use the colours to seduce the viewer into uncovering the history of violence and the mechanisms of control that have been used against ethnic and sexual minorities,” Soufiane says. His pastel palette and delicate hues inject Soufiane’s work with an honest romanticism, one that ultimately renders the darker truths he depicts all the more poignant. The artist draws inspiration from a wide pool of references; art history, film theory and pornography to name a few. In so doing, Soufiane’s artwork reveals the inherent power dynamics of cultural artefacts and reimagines them as devices of social, cultural and political change.
Activism is the driving force of Soufiane’s work. Art, the Moroccan artist believes, can give a voice to marginalised groups and has the potential to be a vessel for change. “My work allows underrepresented communities who have never been asked for their opinion to be seen,” Soufiane says. “My art is only political in that it offers an alternative perspective on the world, one that is different to the dominant narratives constructed by the heterosexual, white bourgeois.”