A major figure of Morocco’s post-independence artistic community, Chaïbia Talal developed a free figurative style of painting portraits and groups of people with bright colors and thick brush strokes. Often simply referred to as Chaïbia, she grew up in an agricultural family in the village of Chtouka. She began working with industrial paints, earning the early support of the Moroccan painter Ahmed Cherkaoui (1934–1967) and the French curator and critic Pierre Gaudibert, at the time the director of the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Like many female artists of her generation, including Baya Mahieddine and Fatima Hassan, Chaïbia’s work was often characterized as “art naif,” an appellation that she rejected and that often had patronizing undertones when applied to selftaught artists, especially non-European women. Chaïbia’s life and work, particularly her photographs with political and cultural figures, have come to symbolize the kind of creativity and class mobility that art can offer. Activists still reference her media appearances and the subjects she depicted as examples of the fight for gender equality in Morocco.
Chaïbia painted many scenes from her home village. My Village, Chtouka is emblematic of her use of primary colors, thick outlines and all over composition. Yellows, reds, blues and greens dominate this depiction of four festively dressed women who, standing in close proximity in a narrow space, fill most of the canvas. These colors echo those of women working in the agriculture fields in this region, considered one of the primary suppliers of Morocco’s grains and vegetables. With its alternating stripes of primary colors and thickly painted circles outlined in blue at the top of the scene, the painting provides little by way of context for these women. At once figurative in its depiction of a scene of conviviality and abstract in the way that color and form dominate the composition, My Village, Chtouka demonstrates Talal’s acumen at keeping both pictorial traditions in dynamic tension.