Lalla Essaydi interviewed by PBS NewsHour

Q&A: Lalla Essaydi Challenges Muslim, Gender Stereotypes at Museum of African Art

May 9, 2012

Moroccan-born Lalla Essaydi always knew she was going to be an artist. Her father was a painter, and some of her fondest childhood memories include drawing with colors and pencils in his studio in Marrakesh. It wasn't until a journalist spotted her photographs decades later while she was a graduate student at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston that she began to gain international attention.

Essaydi, who also lived in Saudi Arabia for many years and now lives in New York City, has had her work exhibited across the United States, Europe and the Middle East. Known for her large format photographs, her work combines Islamic calligraphy and representations of the female body, focusing on the interconnection of faith, culture and gender, and challenging notions within all three.

Her photographs feature women dressed in fabric inscribed with henna calligraphy posing in front of abstract backgrounds that utilize the same cloth and script. She sees her work as "intersecting with the presence and absence of boundaries; of history, gender, architecture, and culture; that mark spaces of possibility and limitation. That is my story as well."

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