Crossing frames of art and identity: Baya, Cixous, and Beji
Futamura, C. Wakaba
Doctor of Philosophy
Born in North African countries and brought up in transcultural environments, Algerian painter Baya Mahiddine, Francophone author Helene Cixous, and Tunisian writer Hele Beji produce works that challenge national, cultural, and social frames of category. This study demonstrates how the three women explore their complex sociocultural backgrounds and produce original works and ideas that undermine preset conventions. The paper examines Baya, Cixous, and Beji in separate chapters in order to identify the commonalities and distinctions of their personal histories and works. They develop innovative techniques or ideas from a transcultural perspective that illustrates, addresses, and transcends issues concerning a complicated past: a disconnected heritage, an inaccessible homeland, and fading cultural traditions. Despite their divergent origins and motivations, they converge in the project of recreating identity through the creative activities of painting and writing. From a unique "transpective" viewpoint that crosses the boundaries of time, gender, and culture, they re-present and rewrite femininity, memory, and sociocultural realities in a way that surpasses classifications and expectations. Whether due to their sociocultural circumstance or personal conviction, they exercise a liberated creativity in order to contribute important works to the fields of visual arts and Francophone literature. In the process of investigating the significant and original accomplishments of Baya, Cixous, and Beji, this study reveals the location of "truth" of each woman's transcultural identity. Their plural subjectivity lies beyond the confines of a frame and resides in an undesignated "passe-partout," or interstitial, region. Within the spaces of art and literature, the three women discover a place of illusion, a "Ka'aba," where they can enjoy a liberated creativity and express their singularity. As the twenty-first century heads towards an increasingly transnational future, individuals globally must similarly embrace a transpective vision in order to maintain cross-cultural understanding and solidarity.