Baya in Dubai: A Tribute to Vibrancy and Colours

Elmarsa Art Gallery in Alserkal avenue pays tribute to self-taught Algerian artist Baya Mahieddine through showcasing 15 of her gouache paintings.

Known simply as Baya, she is still one of the most celebrated artists in Algeria, more than two decades after her death.  Her paintings “mostly represented women, animals, plants, sometimes villages.  Her figures are dressed in large and beautiful colourful dresses covered in flowers, fruit,” with birds springing out like bouquets.

Although her paintings in this collection do not follow a specific theme, their distinctive style of bold, “colourful surreal and childlike imagery,” have drawn people to them over the past seven decades including “leading figures, Henri Matisse, George Braque and Pablo Picasso, with whom she collaborated with in the renowned Madoura ceramics studio in Vallauris in 1949,” as stated in Elmarsa Art Gallery’s description of Baya.

“We came up with this exhibition, which is also her second international exhibition as a way to show our respect to such an important figure in history.  She was considered a member of what I like to call the ‘intellectual artists circle’…Baya was also the inspiration behind Picasso’s ‘Women of Algeria,’ which is one of his most famous works,” Sharon George, the gallery’s administrator told the MBRSC Post.

She was born as Fatima Haddad in Bordj el-Kiffan (Algeria) in a poor family in 1931. She started drawing and painting at a very young age. She was orphaned at the age of five and was “discovered” by a French woman, whom she considered her adoptive mother, where she worked as a maid. This later led to a breakthrough, when she had her first exhibition in Paris at the age of sixteen after her watercolour paintings were discovered by sculptor, Jean Peyrissac, and French gallerist, Aimé Maeght.

Baya later married a much older musician, El Hadj Mahfoud Bahieddine, and had six children.  She briefly stopped painting around 1955 due to the Algerian war of independence from France, according to the Barjeel Art Foundation, but continued in the early 1960s. 

Her works have been exhibited in numerous museums and galleries in France, according to Elmarsa Art Gallery. Baya passed away on the 9th of November, 1998 due to an illness.

Baya’s works continue to be celebrated worldwide due to their uniqueness.  Elmarsa Art gallery, which is dedicated to showcasing modern and contemporary artworks from North Africa, will continue to exhibit Baya’s paintings until the 15th of June. 

Hauwa Buhari-Abdullahi

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