Huda Lutfi : Zan’it Al Sittat


The Third Line presents a solo exhibition of works by Huda Lutfi at Sultan Gallery, Kuwait. Zan’it Al-Sittat is an exploration into concepts and representations of femininity that proliferate through various channels in Egyptian culture at large.

Both historian and artist, Lutfi is a bricoleur. She collects disparate iconic images and manipulates them to re-invent her vision of Egyptian culture, its histories and events. In doing so, Lutfi simultaneously comments on the political relevance of her social context, lifting old feminine icons from history and giving them new life by re-contextualising historic time lines, creating hybridised, timeless female figures.

The exhibition borrows its title from an existing market place in Alexandria, Zan’it Al-Sittat, where women are found in large numbers, and which literally means the space where women are squeezed together. This title is used conceptually to allude critically to the situation of women in Egyptian as well as other cultures at large, and how their social movement is prescribed in the public space. One feminine icon predominates in this market space, the Egyptian diva Umm Kulthum, who is reconstructed not only as an Egyptian icon but as a universal feminine icon as well.

Known for constructing the feminine archetype through juxtaposing the ancient goddesses of Mesopotamia, Egypt and India with the more “modern” goddesses such as the Mona Lisa, Umm Kulthum, Tahiyya Karyokka, the artist’s mother or aunts, Lutfi captures the women’s emotions, their sexuality and experiences in order to simultaneously celebrate femininity and expose the cultural restrictions imposed upon it. Her work attempts to “frame” women in order to create new arrangements of contemporary iconography and cultural representations.

Lutfi’s work is about revisiting the archives of the past and the present, and about manipulating objects and images to reinvent their cultural identity. As well as collage and painting, Lutfi also uses the ‘found and ready made objects’ in her installation work, usually sourced from rummaging through old artefacts and discarded items in Cairo’s markets, factories and antique shops. Her previous work has often included old statues, plastic dolls, broken chair legs and crystals from broken chandeliers to reconstruct her urban cultural context. Lutfi’s work has a strong archival feel to it, as old and modern icons sit side by side, layer upon layer, constructing a historical dialogue between them.

About Huda Lutfi
Huda Lutfi works like an urban archaeologist, constantly digging up found objects and images as loaded fragments of history. She then re-packages them using bricolage and collage as interceptive strategies. Recognizable objects, images and icons are hijacked, re-contextualized and made to tell a different story, playing on collective memory and shared iconography, Lutfi uniquely blurs cultural timelines and boundaries in her work. Multi-layered and playful, Lutfi is known to work with a wide range of media, collage, installations, assemblages, and more recently with photomontage.
Trained as a cultural historian and, with her second career as an artist, Lutfi emerged as one of Egypt’s most notable contemporary image-makers. She received her Doctorate in Islamic Culture and History from McGill University, Montreal, Canada (1983), and has been teaching at the American University in Cairo. Drawing upon the historical, cultural and local experiences and traditions of Egyptian society, she began exhibiting her artwork in the mid-1990s. She has exhibited locally and internationally, with acquisitions in Paris, London, The Hague, Virginia, Indianapolis, Amman, Bahrain, Dubai and Cairo.  Lutfi currently lives and works in Cairo.

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