Woman of the Day – Baya Mahieddine

Green Party Women Celebrating Women’s History Month Day 29: Woman of the Day - Baya Mahieddine, #ForWomenAndPlanet

In March 2018 Baya Mahieddine, an Algerian artist whose vibrant and captivating works have garnered international acclaim first North American exhibition at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery came to an end. This exhibition marked a significant milestone in the recognition of Mahieddine’s contributions to the world of art, particularly as a female artist from the Maghreb region.

Most of us have heard of Picasso, but few will ever have heard the name Baya Mahieddine, who influenced his work, and with whom he worked for several years.

Baya was born Fatima Haddad in a small town in Algeria in 1931. Her father died when she was 5 and her mother remarried into a well-to-do family where she was introduced to the local Kabyle ceramics. In 1940 her mother died, and her grandmother took her in, often taking her to where she worked on a flower farm. Baya’s entirely self-taught talent impressed the sister of the farm-owner, Marguerite Caminat, who took her under her wing and supplied her with art materials. Caminat was well connected in the art world, and by the time she was 16, Baya had her first exhibition in Paris. It was extremely well received, impressing many artists such as André Breton, Matisse and Picasso.

Following her time in Vallauris working alongside Picasso, she returned to Algeria. In 1953 she married famous musician El Hadj Mahfoud Mahieddine. She painted nothing in the ten years that followed, partly because she was raising her six children, but perhaps also because it was in these years that the Algerian war of independence from France – a cause she was enthusiastic about – was taking place. From 1963 she started painting again, and following her husband’s death in 1979, dedicated her life to her art.

In her gouaches dominated by vibrant colours, she often painted women and their richly patterned clothes, belts and veils, figures of the enigmatic mother, along with often fantastical animals, birds and fish. Following her marriage, the paintings also featured musical instruments.

Baya’s artwork depicts a vibrant and joyful community of women. No men are represented anywhere in her art.

Her focus on women remained unchanged: “If I change my paintings, I will no longer be Baya” she stated. Towards the end of her career in the 1990s, she was frequently invited to France in an attempt to co-opt her into the canon of French artists, but Baya remained resolutely attached to her North African identity.

Baya Mahieddine died in 1998, leaving behind a rich legacy as one of Algeria’s most celebrated artists.

Watch the videos below to view some of her work.




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