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A Night At The Museum

A Glammed Up Arab Boy Exploring Representation and Identity At the Gucci Zeitz MOCAA gala in Cape Town, South Africa

Hamzeh Alfarahneh in Gucci, on the night of the Zeitz MOCAA gala. Photo by Isabella Grace
Hamzeh Alfarahneh in Gucci, on the night of the Zeitz MOCAA gala. Photo by Isabella Grace

By Hamzeh Alfarahneh, 11.28.22

Our managing editor has been leading a double life… Editor by day, art advisor and fashion creature by night, in this new column, in candid diary style, Hamzeh shares his adventures as he explores inner and outer worlds and rubs shoulders with iconic figures.

Who knew that green was my color? I naturally gravitate towards blue, but green, which happens to be a great signifier of renewal, was an apt choice in a year full of exciting new things. This whole adventure started at an after-after party during Art Joburg in the fabulous apartment of an eligible bachelor friend in Johannesburg, South Africa. 

My friend, ex-colleague, and art curator Khanya Mashabela brought stylist Terence David to the party. I knew Terence socially,we spoke before, but we have yet to really get to know one another. He is always stylish and comes across as gentle and lovely. Long story short, between the shots, and the well-curated playlist of our eligible host, I mentioned to Terence the idea of getting dressed by Gucci for the Zeitz MOCAA gala — the annual fundraising gala for the museum of contemporary African art in Cape Town.

Terence’s eyes lit up. I could see he was excited by the notion. It was a long shot, but why not. I’ve always loved expressing myself through fashion and am open to collaborating with kindred souls. So I’ve asked Terence if he would like to be my partner in style and conceptualize a look and a pitch for Gucci, and he said YES! 

For my look, Terence and I wanted to create an ensemble that references my North African heritage and the lack of queer Arab representation. 

My maternal grandmother had Southern Egyptian roots — if you think of ‘Opulence & Art,’ which happens to be the gala’s theme, in an Egypt context, the pharaoh comes to mind — hence referenced into a strong and contemporary wing-eye look. Paired with skin-toned fang-like ultra-long nails to symbolize that queerness is an extension of oneself, an aspect that I wanted to highlight and accentuate for the night.

This look would not have been possible without the care and enthusiasm of so many — which I am truly grateful for.  From the team at Gucci, who generously came to the party with look 37 from the Fall 2022 ready-to-wear collection, to the glam team, Vanessa Mpapela, kidredsky, and Kaj, that Terrance has assembled, Isabella Grace, for capturing all the fun and the Zietz team, who embraced me and provided me with access to engage with the museum’s global counsel, and collectors. 

This entire experience has been overwhelming in the best of ways. I have yet to explore this part of myself publicly. I have always guarded my queer identity, be it due to culture, not investing, or for being afraid. Reflecting on this experience, I realized that no reference point directly leads to a  glammed-up Arab kid exploring his/her/their culture. I would love to see more of that. I would love to think that someone might stumble into this one day and get inspired to show the world a vulnerable side of themselves and yet be empowered. I am humbled by the openness and kindness that everyone I’ve interacted with afforded me, which was unexpected. I thought I would need to wear my thickest skin for that night, and I was pleasantly proven wrong. Perhaps things do change… 

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Photos by Isabella Grace.

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