ART FEATURE: A series of women at rest, as created by Moroccan artist Lalla Essaydi.
Whether through conquest or colonisation, Arabic culture has permeated many parts of the African continent, both influencing and often times erasing parts of the local culture.
With Arabic being one of the most spoken languages in Africa, over centuries facets of Arabic culture have been featured in works by African artists - from music and song, to visual representations such as clothing styles and paintings.
Moroccan artist Lalla Essyadi is a contemporary artists whose works illustrate these charateristics. Her work often carries and addresses multiple themes of (at times constrasting but related) dualities - past and present, local versus foreign, and modern takes on traditional man-woman gender roles.
In this series, Essyadi makes use of elements of Orientalist imagery and Arabic script - written in calligraphic form and applied with henna - to challenge and re-contextualize notions of exoticism and gender, creating a highly personal feminine space where the woman’s autonomy is established through the reclaiming of her agency.
Where Orientalist art informs the format and paradigms on which she models most of her art, the incorporation of calligraphy written in Arabic - a role usually reserved for men in Arabic culture, and the use of henna - a temporary natural dye used mainly for aesthetic purposes by women in parts of Africa and Asia, Essaydi merges two areas of Arabic culture where gender plays a central role in their social application, in order to create a new and sacred private feminine space.