Zan'it Al-Sittat

Exhibition of Egyptian artist Huda Lutfi

13 Nov 2008
4 Dec 2008

Huda Lutfi with her exhibition Zan’it Al-Sittat is an exploration into the city of Cairo, and more specifically, the visibility of women in Egyptian culture and society.

Democracy is coming! 2008, Mixed Media, 45 x 35 cm.jpg -


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

Well known for constructing a feminine archetype by juxtaposing the love goddesses of Mesopotamia, Egypt and India with the more “modern” goddesses such as Madonna, Umm Kalthum or the artist’s mother or Aunty, Lutfi captures the women’s emotions, their sexuality and their talents. Her work attempts to “frame” these women and to create new arrangements of iconography and historical representations.

The exhibition title, Zan’it Al-Sittat refers to a market place in Alexandria, where women are found in large numbers, and it literally means the space where women are squeezed together. This title is used conceptually to allude to the situation of woman in Egyptian culture and how their movement is prescribed.

Lutfi’s work is about revisiting the passing of time, and about playing with objects to reinvent their cultural identity. As well as collage, Lutfi also uses the ‘found object’ in her work, usually sourced from rummaging through old artefacts and discarded items in Cairo’s markets, factories and antique shops. Her work has often included old statues, plastic dolls, broken chair legs and crystals from broken chandeliers to reconstruct her image of Cairo. Lutfi’s work has a strong archival feel to it, as old and modern icons sit side by side, layer upon layer, contrasting each other. Sufism is ever present, with the constant form of repetition of these objects.

Text also features heavily in Lutfi’s work, with the artist often quoting medieval passages, or recapturing a Sufi poem or reciting Arab poems or authors. This text is not purely decorative, but is an integral part to reading her work.

Lutfi draws on vernacular forms to produce contemporary art and more importantly to create a new re-invested iconography that is fed by the old one, yet simultaneously intervenes on its very premise and changes it.

text from exhibit press release