Google Celebrates the 95th Birthday of Egyptian Artist and Feminist Inji Aflatoun
By Muhammed Aladdin
The pioneering feminist, visionary artist, and intellectual author, Inji Aflatoun, was born on this day 95 years ago. Today, her legacy hangs from museum walls in more than a dozen countries around the globe.
Aflatoun was born into an upper-class Francophone family in Cairo in 1924. Her father, Hassan, was the founder of the Entomology Department in the Faculty of Science at Cairo University; he later became the dean. Her mother, Salha, was one of the leading figures in the Women’s Committee of the Egyptian Red Crescent Society.
Although throughout the majority of her childhood she had been sheltered from the horrid social problems of Egypt at the time, her later works drew inspiration from Egypt’s working class. She had stated before that she had despised the sense of class structure in her strict Catholic school. However, the wakeup call came at the age of 15 when she was under the mentorship of Egyptian Artist Kamel El Telmissany, whom his work often satirized cultural norms within Egypt’s society. Her work from that time leans to surrealism with dark imagery of women running from fires, storms, and birds of prey.
Later on, she has become one of the faces of the Egyptian feminism movement; Aflatoun rallied for women’s equal rights under the British occupation of Egypt. In 1954, she represented a Cairene group of women at the first conference of the Women’s International Democratic Federation in Paris.
Aflatoun was a self-identified communist and wrote a number of political pamphlets berating gender and class oppression, stating that both concepts are a product of imperialism.
Her activism earned her some jail time in the aftermath of the wake of the 1952 Revolution. During her stay in prison, friends used to smuggle crayons for her to draw with. During that dark time of her life, she produced her most awe-inspiring work, Prisoners, in 1957, which is now on semi-permanent display in Sharjah Art Museum, UAE until at least 2023.
After her release in 1963, she dedicated the remainder of her years to painting. The day after her 65th birthday, she died, leaving a multitude of paintings, as well as a number of books behind. In a Doodle, Google celebrated her life, while museums around the world posted pictures of her art in memory of what would have been her 95th birthday.