Essaydi's photography addresses issues of female identity, challenges the restrictions placed on women in many Arab societies, and criticizes the Orientalist tradition of exoticizing and eroticizing Eastern women. In achieving the latter, Essaydi adapts poses from well-known art historical works. This photograph, for instance, references Edouard Manet's Olympia, one of the most famous paintings of reclining nude women.
The other key to understanding Essaydi's Les femmes du Maroc series lies in the text, which is written directly on the models, their coverings, and the backdrops. Her writing celebrates the beauty of Muslim culture while challenging women's place in it. The text is calligraphy, which is practiced only by men in Essaydi's native Morocco, but it is written in henna, a material associated with women and bodily adornment.
figures; female; women; portraits; white
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