From paintings to music to photography, these 8 female artists are pushing for women to be seen in a different light.
Being an artist isn’t easy. There’s the gut wrenching feeling of having to channel your deepest pain, thoughts, and vulnerabilities into a piece that will be judged at a glance. Then, of course, there’s the added fear of suffering from a creative block while having to create consistent content to prove yourself to an algorithm that sees you as a number pulling other numbers in. Sounds daunting? Exhausting?
Pile onto that the added struggle of being a female artist – then add on top of that, the hurdle of being an Arab female artist. Being an Arab woman is hard enough, but couple with it the desire to challenge the status quo and amplify your voice through artistic means and you have yourself a surefire way of meeting a woman almost certainly at the end of her tether.
Luckily, that doesn’t stop most Arab women from giving up on speaking their truth through art. In fact, these 8 Arab female artists not only use their art to define their struggle – they use their art to fight it.
Lella Fadda is a singer/songwriter whose entire work and persona revolves around championing the weird, the unconventional, and the unique. Her lyrics are powerful reclamations of her autonomy and control. Her latest single, ‘Ghareeba’, translating to ‘weird’, is the anthem for every woman who feels like the odd one out. Our personal favourite, however, is ‘Akher Ayam El Medina’, produced by Elian, where Fadda hauntingly sings “I dreamt of a land and decided it exists, we can go there”. This is Lella Fadda’s world, and we’re just living in it.
Egyptian artist Esra Zidan gained recognition through her stunning paintings that celebrate real female bodies and real female joy. Her paintings depict beautiful curly haired women who defy European magazine beauty standards with their vivacious curves. Esra’s work is distinctly bold not just in the colours she uses, but in how she portrays her female figures – laughing loudly in public in mini-dresses, tight skirts, and swimsuits.
Jameela Elfaki is a Sudanese-British photographer, creative director, DJ, and founder of critically acclaimed AZEEMA Mag. Everything Elfaki does and stands for is in advocating for a space that will both empower women and allow them the freedom to embody their third-cultured Arab identities however they so desire. Whether you are an Arab woman who finds comfort in modesty or one who feels empowered in claiming her sexuality, Elfaki’s work makes Arab women across the board feel seen and respected.
Though Enjy’s Instagram page is more of a personal diary than art portfolio, the glimpses we do see of her art are nothing short of awe-inspiring. Witty, honest, and raw, her sketches depict the ugly truth of womanhood. Take this drawing of a woman running to get a pad with her pants half down as an example. What woman hasn’t been in this situation? Heshmet battles the stigma around these all too normal and relatable incidents, making women feel represented in even the smallest of ways.
Mariam ElReweny is an Egyptian illustrator whose portraits of women are both striking and intimidating. The texture she gives to skin with her brush technique and the depth and soul she manages to pour into her subjects’ eyes is what makes ElReweny’s work on the female gender so awe-inspiring. In this particular piece, a painting of a woman in lingerie looking off into the distance as the scene behind her burns to the ground is femme fatale extroadinaire.
Anyone who knows Egyptian artist Felukah will know that one of her most bad-ass songs is ‘What She Does’, a video and anthem celebrating women working in various fields. In the visual for the track, Felukah enlists the company of her very cool friends who sit in the background painting, coding, reading, writing, and more. Felukah, is of course, rapping, singing, and in general representing a generation of women who use their voices and words towards high-vibrational causes.
Dina Zaitoun has one of those Instagram pages that you could scroll through for days. Her bold prints and bubble Arabic letters work together to hit onlookers in the face with one single message: Arab women are it, they deserve to be heard, and they deserve to be accepted just as they are. Beautiful flaws, loud mouths, rebelliousness and all.
Menna Hamdy’s work is an emblem of wholesome female sisterhood. A recurring theme in her adorable illustrations is women of all colours coming together and bonding. It’s important to note that Hamdy’s feminist work is clearly intersectional, celebrating various identities and backgrounds. The core message of her work besides celebrating female diversity and empowerment, is female harmony. Her work seems to fight against the stereotype that women are in constant competition. In Hamdy’s work, women are each other’s peace and refuge.
There you have it. 8 female Arab artists rocking the boat, rowing the boat, and making waves. There’s hundreds more that a simple article can’t cover. Who’s your favourite Arab female artist pushing the envelope? Let us know.