Lalla Essaydi‘s mesmerizing calligraphic portrait series, Les Femmes du Maroc, explores and empowers Arab female identity by cleverly employing the sacred Islamic art form reserved for men. A product of cultural fusion, Essaydi was born in Morocco and lived in Saudi Arabia for several years before moving to Boston to receive her B.F.A. from Tufts University in 1999. She then received her M.F.A. in Painting and Photography from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts/Tufts University.
The written text is partly autobiographical, referencing personal experiences and thoughts from the artist’s past and present. The inscriptions are applied with henna ink which is used for daily and ceremonial purposes and typically associated with women, underscoring the subversive nature of the series. In a society where women are defined by the presence of men, Essaydi literally breaks the silence with her intricate and labyrinthine language.
The work seen above, Les Femmes du Maroc #27, can be viewed at Art Dubai in the Agial Art Gallery booth. Several other works from the series are displayed in the Edwynn Houk Gallery booth, a gallery representing the artist in New York.