Converging Territories #30, 2004

By Lalla Essaydi

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“My photographs are about the women subjects’ participation in contributing to the greater emancipation of Arab women, while at the same time conveying to an outside audience a very rich tradition of practice, relationships, and ideas that are so often misunderstood and misrepresented in the West.” —Lalla Essaydi

Lalla Essaydi’s photographs deal with a rebellion against the limited domain of the female within Islamic traditions. As noted in Nazar: Photographs from the Arab World (Aperture, 2005), according to Islamic tradition, the street is the domain of men, and women are condemned to live indoors. Behind closed doors, they are nothing more than decoration, suggests Essaydi, a situation she that she vividly represents in Converging Territories, which appeared in the spring 2005 issue of Aperture magazine alongside a text written by Isolde Brielmaier. Essaydi places Islamic women in isolated spaces and literally decorates them with texts written in henna. The texts—a reversal of the silence of their isolation—give the women a voice, with which they can speak to the space and to one another. The rebellious character of the photographs is magnified by the fact that within Islam calligraphy cannot be practiced by women.

Converging Territories #30 was photographed in the house where women and girls from the artist’s family were locked up, sometimes for weeks, when they transgressed the rules of Islam. Essaydi herself was sent to this space as a youth; escorted by silent servants, she would be left alone for up to a month. As Isolde Brielmaier notes, “her intention and introspection are evident in her photographs: we see Essaydi turning ‘space’ into something more than just the delimited enclosures of that house of her childhood.”

Lalla Essaydi’s (born Marrakech, Morocco, 1956) work is represented in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago; Brooklyn Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Columbus Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and many others.


Print Paper Size: 20 x 24 inches
Print Image Size: 17 x 21 3/4 inches
Edition of 40 and no artist’s proofs
Signed and numbered by the artist

About the Artist
By Lalla Essaydi
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