Courtesy of Elmarsa Gallery Tunis/Dubai


Algeria (19311998)


Baya As I Knew Her

As a proud Algerian and someone with a lifelong passion for the arts passed down to me by my father, it seems a right of passage to know and love the work of Baya. Her work, a natural phenomenon, decorated the walls of many bourgeois Algerian families whose houses I frequented growing up, adding vivacity to otherwise bare walls. During my youthful years, Algiers was a very bourgeois and conservative city which is why I was fascinated by the warm and colourful works of this new female artist Baya who painted and drew exactly like a child.

The Depth of the Surface: Modern and Contemporary Art of the Arab World

We enter the composition by boat, on a calm, flowing river that meanders diagonally off into the left-hand corner of the canvas. On either side of the river, tall trees — their historical presence suggested by the wide girth of their trunks — hug the waterway; their delicate dance with the sunlight bathing the river in vibrant patches of green, blue, orange, and reds. Nestled behind the trees, a row of brownish buildings with dark cavernous windows guides the viewer’s eye along the river and into the vanishing point in the distance. Together, these elements — the winding waterway, trees that stretch up to meet the frame of the canvas, and architectural structures weathered by time — create a composition of immense depth that moves the viewer’s eye through the canvas: a visual journey that mirrors the suggested physical water journey that is the subject of this landscape.