Harem: Captivating Images of Islamic Women

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Moroccan artist Lalla Essaydi, currently living in New York City, combines her painting skills with her aptitude for photography to produce this beautiful series called “Harem.” Unlike the idyllic Western associations of the word harem, where scantily clad gorgeous women are anxiously awaiting a man to please, Essaydi’s portrays the Harems of Morocco a bit more realistically and a lot more artistically. Essaydi painted all of the exposed skin her subjects with henna tattoos of Islamic calligraphy of an autobiographical nature. The chosen robes were meant to blend in with the Arabic tiles in the background to represent the way Arabic women are somewhat trapped between their culture and the way that they have been portrayed in Western art.


This collection as well as her first “Converging Territories” have been on display at art galleries around the United States, including Art Institute of Chicago, Brooklyn Museum of Art, and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. According to Essaydi,

“In my art, I wish to present myself through multiple lenses — as artist, as Moroccan, as Saudi, as traditionalist, as Liberal, as Muslim. In short, I invite the viewer to resist stereotypes.”

To see the rest of this collection and more works by Lalla Essaydi, check out her portfolio on Edwynn Houk Gallery.

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