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Christie's is delighted to present two photographs by leading female Moroccan photographer Lalla Essaydi from her Bullets Revisited series. Her captivating portrayals of the female form possess a sense of beauty that operates outside the norm of its traditional definition. Her unique approach to redefining space, shape and character through a distinct revisiting of her Moroccan roots creates a unique photographic harmony between East and West. The beauty and sense of riddled purity that she has the ability to evoke from her young sitters is unlike the work of any photographer.
The most striking feature of her creations is the dynamic new world she crafts on the photographic plane. She succeeds to maintain the familiarity of contemporaneous culture while similarly highlighting traditional elements of Moroccan and oriental methods of decoration in an unrivalled way.
The fascinating intricacies of her photographs are impossible to ignore. A feature that is synonymous to the success of these works is the inclusion of henna calligraphy delicately written over the exposed skin of her sitters. 'Henna is a crucial element in the life of a Moroccan woman, and is associated with the major celebrations in her life.' (D. Nasser-Khadivi & A-C. Rafif (eds.), Lalla Essaydi Crossing Boundaries Bridging Cultures, p. 11). Its prominent use throughout her works are indicative of a symbolic homage to a woman's right of passage through life and their will to express themself within the male-dominated society, while it evidently pays homage to the Islamic visual language. Drawing inspiration from the imagery close to her heart, the photographer does not try to represent a stereotype of Arab women and their misunderstood representation in society both in the Middle East and on a global scale, but rather Essaydi draws on the imagery of her childhood to represent the strength of her roots and her quest to find her own inner voice.
Though the diversity and technical experimentation throughout her oeuvre is extensive, the two works offered in this sale represent two unique perspectives and positions Essaydi employs. Despite the portrayal of a reclining sitter, it is undoubted that both the women in these photos have a palpable sense of strength, while their eyes possess a haunting innocence that meets the viewer with a fascinating sense of curiosity. 'The women in the photographs participate because they feel they are contributing to the greater emancipation of Arab women, and at the same time conveying to a Western audience a very rich tradition often misunderstood in the west.' (idem, p. 11). Their sense of peace, strongly juxtaposed by the density and complexity of the henna on their skin is given a luxurious depth and density through the richness of the materials and gold used. Lalla Essaydi's capacity to entirely recreate the Orient, in a form of complete modernity, has the ability to remain nostalgic and reminiscent of the East's textural and colourful luxuries, while providing the innovation and originality of the contemporary West and dismissing the fantasised Orientalist stereotypes that are often drawn upon the female society of the Orient.