Lalla Essaydi: Les Femmes du Maroc

Lalla Essaydi: Les Femmes du Maroc

les femmes du maroc #23 by lalla essaydi

Lalla Essaydi


les femmes du maroc #10 by lalla essaydi

Lalla Essaydi


les femmes du maroc #1 by lalla essaydi

Lalla Essaydi


vendredi 28 septembre 2007mercredi 21 novembre 2007

New York, NY USA

September 28 – November 21, 2007
Opening reception with the artist on Friday, September 28 from 6-8 PM

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Edwynn Houk Gallery will open it’s 30th season with the first New York exhibition of Lalla Essaydi’s new photographic series, Les Femmes du Maroc.

Born in Morocco, Lalla Essaydi’s new works incorporate layers of Islamic calligraphy applied by hand with henna, in tandem with poses directly inspired by 19th Century Orientalist painting. By appropriating this imagery, the works reflect the “complex female identities” found in Morocco and throughout the Muslim world. Essaydi’s photographs provide the opportunity for the artist and her subjects to engage in the emerging “culture of Islamic feminism.”

During the 19th Century, French painters such as Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Eugène Delacroix and Jean-Léon Gérôme indulged their audiences with the trend for images of the middle-eastern harem and the eroticisized Arab female body. Utilizing the perspective of an Arab woman living in a Western world, the artist attempts to reexamine Arab female identity.

Set within an unoccupied house, owned by the artist’s family, a place to which Essaydi was sent as a form of punishment when she disobeyed, Les Femmes du Maroc represents an exploration of the imaginary boundaries and “permissible space” codified by traditional Muslim society. Essaydi writes, “the presence of men defines public space, the streets, the meeting places. Women are confined to private spaces, the architecture of the homes.”

“I am writing. I am writing on me, I am writing on her. The story began to be written the moment the present began.” Translated from the original Arabic, Essaydi’s personal writing subverts traditional Muslim gender stereotypes through the presence of the written word. The sacred Islamic art form of calligraphy, traditionally reserved exclusively for men, is employed by Essaydi as a small act of defiance against a culture in which women are relegated to the private sphere. Crossing a prohibited cultural threshold through the act of writing, Les Femmes du Maroc enables the artist and her subjects to engage in a simple act of self-expression.

Edwynn Houk Gallery is located at 745 Fifth Avenue (between 57th and 58th Streets) on the 4th floor. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Please visit for more information.