Women artists of the Middle East: seven names to know

Lalla Essaydi highlighted by Christie's

The photographer Lalla Essaydi (b. 1956) grew up in Morocco and Saudi Arabia, before moving to Paris and Boston to study art. Her work, which portrays women with skin covered in illegible henna calligraphy, focuses on female Arab identity.


'My work reaches beyond Islamic culture to invoke the Western fascination, as expressed in painting, with the odalisque, the veil, and, of course, the harem,' she has said. 

'Here is another way in which my work cannot be read simply as a critique of Arab culture. Images of the harem and the odalisque still penetrate the present and I use the Arab female body to disrupt that tradition.'


In 2015, Essaydi published a monograph of her work called Crossing Boundaries, Bridging Cultures, and was the subject of a solo show at The San Diego Museum of Art in California. Two years later, in recognition of her pioneering work, she was asked to be a guest speaker at The New York Times event Art for Tomorrow: Women in Islam  in Qatar.

5 November 2020