Spencer Museum of Art The University of Kansas

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Mariage à Monastir
  • Safia Farhat
    1924–2004
    born: Radès, Tunisia ; died: Tunis, Tunisia ; active: Tunisia
  • Mariage à Monastir, circa 1960
  • Where object was made: Tunisia
  • postcard
  • Object Height/Width: 6 x 4 in
  • On loan from Dr. Jessica Gerschultz
  • On view: Marshall Balcony, 404, S1
  • EL2017.119
  • Loan: Not in the Spencer's collection
Label Text
Exhibitions

Exhibition Label:
"Race, Gender, and the "Decorative" in 20th-Century African Art: Reimagining Boundaries", 11-Nov-2017
“The experience of everyday life constitutes a constant contribution to the artist’s experience.”
—Safia Farhat, La Presse, January 16, 1970
Artists across Africa and the African Diaspora sought to reconcile modernist binaries such as art/craft, high/low, and modern/traditional in various media. Two-dimensional graphic arts such as postcards, illustrations for literary journals, and postage stamps enabled artists to widely circulate such imagery. The artist group École de Tunis (Tunis School) formed in 1948 to forge a Tunisian artistic modernism collective. Its members included Jellal Ben Abdallah, whose early drawings illustrated the feminist publication Leïla in the 1930s; Ali Bellagha, who opened a gallery to elevate Tunisian arts; and Safia Farhat, the first Tunisian director of the École des Beaux-Arts in Tunis and professor of tapestry and decorative arts. The stamps and postcard on display reveal the group’s engagement with artistic heritage such as embroidered wedding costumes, spinning wool, pottery, woven fans and hats, and musical instruments. The Topeka-born artist Aaron Douglas also shaped pan-African philosophies of uplifting African and African-American art and society. Like artists of the École de Tunis, Douglas evoked African design elements to create murals and graphics. His 1926 cover illustration for the magazine Opportunity accompanied poems

Mobile App Exhibition Label:
"Race, Gender, and the "Decorative" in 20th-Century African Art: Reimagining Boundaries", 11-Nov-2017
This early 1960s postcard depicts a painting titled Mariage à Monastir by Safia Farhat. The postcard was mailed from Tunisia to Bulgaria around 1964. During this period, many Tunisian modernists such as Farhat contributed graphics and mural designs to Tunisian’s growing hotel and tourism industry. Postcards circulated images of cultural patrimony abroad.

Farhat was a renowned Tunisian artist and professor. She was a member of the École de Tunis (Tunis School) and the first female and first Tunisian director of the acclaimed École des Beaux-Arts (School of Fine Arts), where she advanced women’s access to art education. Her work coincided with state-supported decorative arts programs and postcolonial state feminism of the 1950s–1960s. Farhat’s artistic and professional endeavors cultivated the representation of gender in the Tunisian art scene.

This artwork portrays a Tunisian wedding ceremony, though the location of the original painting is unknown. The bride stands, hands raised, on her platform as a presentation of her transition from girl to wife, receiving admiration and gifts from her community. Older women gaze upon the bride with approval, one with her hand to her mouth, perhaps ululating in celebration. The man wearing a red chechia hat, perhaps the father of the bride, sits in the presence of his daughter before she leaves for the home of her groom.

The henna used to mark the bride’s hands and face bring blessing and purification as she enters her new life. The henna plant is known as the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) favorite plant, and is used in many ceremonies in Muslim life, including weddings and circumcisions. The bride is dressed in an embroidered gold dress, similar to the example in Ali Bellagha’s collection (see the red embroidered textile in the nearby case). She also wears wedding clogs and kholkhal, a pair of heavy wedding anklets. The bride’s hair remains loose, symbolizing her unencumbered love and fertility.

The fish, represented on the back wall, is a common Tunisian good luck talisman used to ward off bad spirits and the evil eye. It was also historically used as a fertility symbol: a bride stepped over a fish before entering into her new home.

Written by Sonya Merwin Bailey.

“The experience of everyday life constitutes a constant contribution to the artist’s experience.”
—Safia Farhat, La Presse, January 16, 1970
Artists across Africa and the African Diaspora sought to reconcile modernist binaries such as art/craft, high/low, and modern/traditional in various media. Two-dimensional graphic arts such as postcards, illustrations for literary journals, and postage stamps enabled artists to widely circulate such imagery. The artist group École de Tunis (Tunis School) formed in 1948 to forge a Tunisian artistic modernism collective. Its members included Jellal Ben Abdallah, whose early drawings illustrated the feminist publication Leïla in the 1930s; Ali Bellagha, who opened a gallery to elevate Tunisian arts; and Safia Farhat, the first Tunisian director of the École des Beaux-Arts in Tunis and professor of tapestry and decorative arts. The stamps and postcard on display reveal the group’s engagement with artistic heritage such as embroidered wedding costumes, spinning wool, pottery, woven fans and hats, and musical instruments. The Topeka-born artist Aaron Douglas also shaped pan-African philosophies of uplifting African and African-American art and society. Like artists of the École de Tunis, Douglas evoked African design elements to create murals and graphics. His 1926 cover illustration for the magazine Opportunity accompanied poems