Multicultural Identities: The Career of Lalla Essaydi

Joliza Terry

The viewer gains new insight into Lalla Essaydi’s working methods and creative production through a more nuanced understanding of the multiple cultures that have shaped her development as an artist, and continue to shape her ongoing work. Essaydi is an artist of North Western Africa, born and raised in the Arab state of Morocco, which is considered to be one of the more liberal states of the Arab world.  Essaydi also lived as an adult for many years in the Middle Eastern Arab state of Saudi Arabia.  Thus Islamic culture and Arab traditions are significant to her identity. Essaydi is also an artist profoundly influenced by Western traditions.  Her experiences in Europe and America include her first formal artistic training in Paris, and an extended period of education—both undergraduate and graduate training–in Boston. Essaydi has been able to draw upon these diverse cultures in her work, fusing them together to create something very unique. She does a dynamic job of using her art as a medium to engage with audiences outside of the Arab world. Thus she seeks to challenge new viewers and break down stereotypes about Islam and about the lives of Arab women.  This essay will point to the significance of Essaydi’s multicultural background, focusing on her approach to her subjects, locations, materials, and work between America and Morocco.

Authentic Moroccan Subjects

Authentic American Materials

Cited Sources and Suggestions for Further Reading

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