“My message would be: Arab women are not so much oppressed as the Western World thinks. We are women incredibly engaged in our lives, to have a better life,”artist Lalla Essaydi said Tuesday, as she toured her exhibit, “Lalla Essaydi: Revisions,” which opened Wednesday at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art.
Essaydi, who was born in a harem in Morocco and has gained international fame for her photography of women in Islamic cultures, told a crowd at a press preview that her work is autobiographical and is intended to confront Western stereotypes of women in those cultures.
“I am trying to make clear the role of the Moroccan woman and the role of the Muslim woman in the sense [that] we are not just confined and sitting in one corner,” Essaydi said. “It becomes my duty and my passion, at the same time, to show another facet of the real Arab woman to the Western world and to the world in general.
“We are very strong ….We have our own personality, on our own. We want to be seen like that. We don’t want the projection of the Western world or the Islamic culture to be projected on us from both sides. We want to be seen as human beings.”
Essaydi stood before a photograph of herself, draped in white fabric, immersed in calligraphy inscribed in henna. “My work,” she said, “is really my history.”