The Painters of the City: North Africa 1880-1920
An exhibition by Professor William Gallois
|An Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies exhibition|
|Date||9 May – 2 August 2019|
|Place||Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies|
This exhibition explores a mystery which also constitutes a unique moment in the history of art. In the last years of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth century, new forms of painting emerged on and around buildings in cities and towns across north Africa. They were identifiably related to existing cultural forms – especially tattoos , textiles and jewellery – but their sudden appearance in the form of murals and frescoes was unprecedented….
They took existing aesthetic and spiritual amuletic forms which were designed to safeguard individual bodies and homes, extending their scope into the collective, public sphere so as to save communities of believers across cities and the world. While such work was produced anonymously we can be sure that it was made by women, who had long held special aesthetic-religious responsibilities in north Africa. Protective art made by women was imbued with unique force in both Muslim and Jewish communities, and amongst Berbers, Tuaregs and Arabs. While their paintings may have long since faded (or been erased), what we might now learn from the artists of the city and their forgotten works?