– Autumn/Winter 2016

Public/Private: The Many Lives of ‘Rebel Painter’ Inji Efflatoun

Inji Efflatoun, Mathbahat Dinshaway (The Dinshaway Massacre), c. 1950s, ink on paper, 63.5 × 49.3cm. Courtesy Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah

Egypt, at the turn of the last century, was in the strange and unenviable position of being occupied and governed from abroad by two foreign (and competing) powers all at once. It was then still a nominal province of the Ottoman Empire. Napoleon had invaded Egypt in the summer of 1798, bringing with him one of the most impressive expeditions of scientists and scholars in history. After three years, he was distracted elsewhere, and his forces withdrew. The Ottomans dispatched Muhammad Ali, a prominent military commander, Albanian by birth, to reconquer the territory and instigate reforms, which he did. Instead of returning Egypt to the empire, however, Muhammad Ali established his own dynasty, which the Ottomans alternately accepted and tried to destroy. Although they set out to assassinate him many times, the Ottomans ultimately learned to tolerate his newly renamed Khedivate of Egypt.

Inji Efflatoun, Filling the Jars of the Nile, c.1950s, detail. Courtesy Safar Khan Gallery, Cairo

British forces were