Some people experience too much, too young. Chaïbia Talal was only 13, living in the small village of Chtouka near El Jadida, Morocco, when she was forcibly married to a seventy year old man. A year later she became a mother, and the year after that her decrepit husband died and left her a widow at 15 years old. For the next ten years she worked as a maid to support her son, El Houcine, and was called mahboula—the crazy girl, for her dreamy nature.
It was her dreams that saved her. At age 25, strangers came to Chaïbia in a dream and offered her pens and leaves to draw on. Inspired, she took up painting. Unschooled in the arts, her paintings were raw, colorful, and deeply expressive. At first, her work was poorly received in Morocco, and she was derided as a naïve artist. In 1966, after more than a decade of painting, her career took wings. She was featured in an exhibition at the Goethe Institute, in Casablanca, where her work was noticed by the international art world. The same year she showed work at the Solstice Gallery and the Salon des Surindépendants at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris, and over the next two decades exhibited in Denmark, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands.
Chaïbia Talal passed away from a heart attack in 2004, but not before her work was internationally renowned for its joyful portrayal of women in bold color. In 2015 the Moroccan filmmaker Youssef Britel directed a biography called “Chaïbia, The Peasant of the Arts”, which he hoped would be “a message of hope to all women, through the story of Chaibia, who overcame all obstacles that stood before her to reach glory.”
Got questions, comments or corrections about Chaïbia Talal? Join the conversation in our Discord, and if you enjoy content like this, consider becoming a member for exclusive essays, downloadables, and discounts in the Obelisk Store.
Reed Enger, "Chaïbia Talal, “A message of hope to all women”," in Obelisk Art History, Published October 06, 2018; last modified October 27, 2022, http://arthistoryproject.com/artists/chaibia-talal/.