Baya Mahieddine, better known as Baya, is one of the most important post-war Algerian artista. Orphaned at a Young age, she was adopted in 1942 by the French artista, intelectual and colletor Marguerite Caminat Benhoura, who stimulated Baya’s artistic development and taught her to Paint. This edition of Derrier le Miroir was published to accompany Baya’s first solo exhibition, at the influential Galerie Maeeght in Paris. Baya was 16.
Baya is often described as an outsider, a child artist “discovered” by art dealer Aimé Maeght and “taken under the wings” of intellectuals and artists such as André Breton, Jean Dubuffet, and Pablo Picasso. In Derriére le miroir Baya is described as “la petite orpheline”, the little orphan. The colorful, magical world of her paintings would seem to confirm this view of her. But recent exhibitions and books show her to have been a determined artist who consciously chose and developed her own style.
She painted women, birds, fish, and plants in bright shades of blue, red, and yellow, frequently including patterns. The Algerian writer Assia Djebar sees the eyes as the key to understanding Baya’s artistic intentions: “Baya’s woman fixes her giant eye, wide open, on flowers, fruits, the sound of the lute and the guitar, the complicit birds, the fish in the bowl, a child perched on the head or shoulder of the hostess who is conversing with a palm tree … [Bayal, the first in a string of sequestered women whose blindfold suddenly fell from their eyes.”
In 1953, Baya returned to Algeria, married, had children, and stopped painting for nearly ten years. Was she preoccupied with her family, or was it because of the bloody war of independence that raged until 1962? Whatever the case, after independence she reappeared, painting again and exhibiting her work. In 1967 Baya also signed the manifesto of the group Achouem (tattoo), which called for the reassembly of “artistic elements invented by the civilizations of the Third World” to -give expression to “the new Algerian reality”.