I was thrilled to hear about the 100 Women Artists in Art History Exhibition in January. And I appreciate Alicia Campos for starting this important movement to give recognition to worthy, but mostly unknown female artists. I have chosen Chaibia Talal, who was born in 1929 in a small village in Morrocco. She touched my heart for 2 reasons.
The first is that she was a victim of child abuse. When she was 13 years old, her parents sent her to Casablanca to be married to a 70-year-old man. Can you imagine? There is no such thing as consent when one is 13 years old. At 14 she had given birth and by 15 she was a widow. Many of the girls we work with at Rapha International are 13 years old or younger. Some have had babies by the age of 12 because of being raped during the time they were trafficked. So Chaibia endured sexual exploitation as a child just like all children do who have been trafficked.
The other reason her art speaks to me is that it’s so joyful. She uses strong, primary colors in a Naive art style. The colors practically jump off the canvas. When her husband died (she was 15) she worked as a maid to support her son and herself. She was determined to provide her son with an education which she did. She remained illiterate her whole life.
She was self-taught and her art was not well-received until later in her life. She was known for breaking traditional boundaries. Her work was considered outsider art which portrays unconventional ideas by members of non-traditional art movements. In 1966 her works were exhibited in Casablanca and the museum of modern art in Paris. She died at age 75.
I am always moved by people who are able to express beauty and joy even though their lives are so difficult. Chaibia is one of those and some of our kids who have survived trafficking make the most glorious, hopeful, and happy art. I used my own style to pay homage to Chaibia, which is a mixed-media collage. Her painting is called La Mariee and was painted oil on canvas in 1988.
Photo by Gabriel Soussan. Chaibia dan son atelier à Casablanca. 1971