Inji Efflatoun, Al-Ezba, 1981, Oil on wood, 60 x 60 cm
Courtesy of ArtTalks | Egypt
Founded in 2009, ArtTalks | Egypt is a Cairo-based art space specializing in modern works of art by 20th century artists from Egypt. Recognized as an authority, our interdisciplinary practice of exhibitions, lectures and publications is a unique platform for individuals and institutions committed to the field of Egyptian art history. The gallery houses one of the largest and most comprehensive collection of rare books, publications and archive on modern Egyptian art. Founder Ms Kanafani is lecturer/author on 20th-century Egyptian modernism and is working on her first book. She contributed to Daughters of the Nile / Mahmoud Said catalogue raisonné.
Mohamed Ghaleb Khater
Riham El Sadany
A painter, a political activist, a feminist, a prisoner, an author, a freedom fighter, a wife, daughter, and sister, Inji Efflatoun was a multitude of personalities. It is difficult then to know of which Inji to speak.
Born in Cairo in 1924 to a family of large land-owners, Inji Efflatoun grew up in a cellophane-wrapped aristocratic society, to the extent that until the age of eighteen, she could only speak French. Raised by a single working mother, Efflatoun made a series of confrontational choices that ultimately cemented her as one of the most important intellectual feminine voices and socially-engaged artists of twentieth-century Egypt.
The first turning point in her life took place in 1941, when her family hired the then-surrealist painter and vanguard leftist thinker Kamel Telmisany to give ‘the bourgeois girl’ private drawing lessons. Not only did Telmisany introduce Efflatoun to the meaning of art and the misery of life outside of her isolated society, but he also launched her career as a surrealist artist.
Dealing with a double life, Efflatoun joined the Communist Party in 1944 and geared her militant efforts towards the national struggle, social justice, and the feminist cause. Her exposure to people’s struggles influenced the direction she took as an artist, and launched the second stage with social expressionist paintings depicting resistance.
Operating on the fringes against the establishment, Efflatoun was imprisoned for four years between 1959 and 1964, producing some of her most emotionally charged works behind bars. After her release, the fourth and final stage forged a more liberated mode of narrating Egypt and its people, characterized by dazzling white light.
An avant-garde painter and a radical political activist, Injy Efflatoun created a holy link between society and art, to bring ordinary people’s struggles to the fore. With over forty individual exhibitions around the world and several major retrospectives, Inji Efflatoun’s legacy continues to challenge gender and geographical constraints. Multi-faceted, pioneering, and above all, courageous, she devoted her life to social justice and in the process, created an expressionist local movement with a universal echo perfectly adapted to her persistent message.