In her photograph series ‘Converging territories’ she brings different worlds together. Her memories of her youth in Morocco are her most important source of inspiration, in particular the punishments she received when crossing the barriers of acceptable behaviour. As a consequence she would be isolated in an empty house together with a servant who had been told not to speak a word to her. She would also not be allowed to speak, so she found herself forced to spend the month in silence.
In her work, Essaydi shatters that silence. She speaks loud and clear. She speaks through the women she photographs in their own spaces. She speaks through the walls, the floors, the women's' clothing and the objects in the spaces. She strings words and sentences together to a flowing stream that rises to cover everything, creating a deafening roar without making a sound. The words refer to her memories and observations, to being caught between the present and the past, east and west.
She playfully toys with meanings in the way she writes her texts. In the Muslim culture, the written word is the domain of the men. She writes with henna, which in turn belongs to the domain of the women. Women live within the privacy of the walls of their house. There, according to Essaydi, they become a kind of decoration. They belong to the house. The word 'Odalisque' comes from the Turkish word that literally means 'belonging to a place'.
In writing her texts on the women, Essaydi achieves two goals. On the one hand, she emphasises the decorative nature of women by providing another layer of decoration through henna. On the other, it is a subversive and rebellious act because she uses the holy art of calligraphy, which is traditionally reserved only for men.
During her life in the West, the artist has become aware of another space; that of independence and mobility. From this place, she can return to the landscape of her youth in order to observe her history anew with a certain distance and a new understanding.
Both of the cultures have moulded her. Essaydi explores her language from this place, where both 'territories' flow together. In her words: "I want to show myself from a number of perspectives; as an artist, as a Moroccan, as a Saudi, as a traditionalist, as a liberal and as a Muslim."Margriet Kruyver
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