Lalla Essaydi was born in 1956 in Marrakesh, Morocco. She grew up in Morocco, raised her family in Saudi Arabia, and relocated to France and finally the United States. In 1990, she studied fine art at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and later received a BFA from Tufts University in 1999. Her multiple relocations gave the artist’s profound perspectives into cross-cultural identity politics. Since her first major series Converging Territories (2004), Essaydi had covered her models, and sometimes their garments and walls, in layers of hand-painted henna calligraphy, subverting traditional Muslim gender stereotypes through the presence of the written word. In the series Les Femmes du Maroc (2007), she questions the representation of Arab women in the Western artistic tradition, referencing the Orientalist imagery. In her Harem (2009) and Bullets (2014) series, set in a lavish yet isolating harem in Morocco, Essaydi addresses the complex social and physical confines of Muslim womanhood.
Born in 1971 in Paris, France, Yto Barrada grew up in Tangier, Morocco. She returned to Paris where she studied history at the Sorbonne and later moved to New York to study photography at the International Center of Photography. Barrada knits together family histories and broader sociopolitical narratives through works that employ a variety of media. She also explores the construction of identity of immigrants, drawing upon narratives linked to colonialism and its legacy. In her first series A Life Full of Holes: The Straight Project (2004), Barrada captures the temptations of leaving and the unfulfilled hopes of escaping from Morocco to Spain via the Strait of Gibraltar. A number of subjects have their backs to the camera or their faces obscured. Iris Tingitana (2007) shifts attention toward the ever-changing border between the natural and urban landscape through a series of images documenting the environment surrounding Tangier.
Maha Maamoun was born in 1972 in Cairo, Egypt. She studied art history at the American University in Cairo. Interested in social conditions, her work acts as a lens through which we see familiar images in novel and insightful ways. She does that by making subtle interventions in photographic material that she captures on camera or videos found in mainstream culture. She explores national symbols and the ways in which they have been appropriated to construct personal narratives and collective histories. Speaking directly to a tradition of Orientalist imagery, Maamoun questions distances traveled with an interest in the sliding registers of estrangement. Her series Domestic Tourism (2005) transforms imagery in ways meant to appeal and challenge the viewers. Through an unusual crop, a seamless edit, an odd juxtaposition, an incongruent photomontage, a staged remake, Maamoun shakes up our expectations and toys with our perception.
Mauro Pinto was born in 1974 in Maputo, Mozambique. In the late 90’s, he moved to Johannesburg, South Africa where he studied photography at the International Monitor School. In parallel, he followed an internship with the photographer José Machado. Moving back to Maputo, he started to work next to Ricardo Rangel – the pioneer of photojournalism in Mozambique. Pinto reflects on the visual creation, information, and communication. His work captures the essence of the space, thanks to a clever play with contrasts that can be perceived as provocative. In 2009, his work was included in Maputo: A Tale of One City, curated by the Oslo Museum in Oslo, Norway, which toured additional Norwegian cities for a year thereafter. During this time, Pinto initiated the project Karl Marx 1834, in collaboration with sculptor Gonçalo Mabunda and lawyer Tina Lorizzo. The project saw a local house transformed in a gallery, hosting several exhibitions by national and international artists.