Baya, the Algerian queen of surrealism

This article is also available in: Italiano

Today we are talking about Baya, a legendary Algerian artist, so incredible that she counts among her admirers: Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and André Breton, the father of surrealism.

Fatima Haddad “Baya”

Fatima Haddad “Baya” was born in 1931 in Bordj El Kifane, a town not far from Algiers. Orphan of both parents, she will be raised in the home of the French Marguerite Camina Benhoura, where she will have her first contact with the art world. In 1947 she paints her first work “Woman with blue hair in a yellow dress”

Baya
One of Baya’s very first works

Right from the start the work appears as a clear and very strong reference to a wild, almost primordial femininity, which has its echo in so much life present in the painting. There is a tendency to almost confuse the nature of the woman and the one around her, giving a very strong visual impact to the composition. Another feature of this first series will be the total absence of men, a really powerful message, especially for Algeria at the time. Baya’s talent will be immediately noticed by the great critic Aimé Maeght who will make false papers to bring her to Paris.

Among the greats

In France Baya will become great friends with the likes of Pablo Picasso, Georges Braques and André Breton. The latter, who will later be considered one of the fathers of Surrealism, was perhaps her biggest fan, so much so that he wrote an entire text dedicated to the Algerian artist.

Baya

With the arrival of the Algerian War, Fatima was forced to return to her homeland, where she married the musician El Hadj Mahfoud Mahieddine. With the arrival of the conflict, Baya’s career comes to a halt, focusing on the survival of her and her offspring generated by her marriage. From 1963 the artist will return to work, continuing until her death in 1998.

A great legacy

Baya is still considered one of the most important artists both in terms of the Maghreb and the Arab feminist struggles. Her style is a constant tribute to the wild Arab femininity, too often locked away in favor of male power. Furthermore, the period of time in which she worked makes her one of the very first to fight for the right to freedom of women.

Baya

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