Self-taught Algerian artist Baya Mahieddine was orphaned at age five. Encouraged by her adoptive French parents, living in Algeria, to pursue art (although she remained illiterate), she began painting and sculpting in clay as early as 1943. Her work was soon discovered by gallerist Aimé Maeght who, along with André Breton, organised an exhibition of her works in Paris in 1947. Baya’s colourful mélange of surreal, childlike imagery, rich in symbols and ornamentation ranging from mystical to pagan to her Arab-Amazigh origins drew the attention of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, with whom she later collaborated in the renowned Madoura pottery studio in Vallauris.
In 1982, Baya had a solo exhibition at the Museum Cantini in Marseille inaugurated by French President François Mitterrand in presence of the Mayor of Algiers and the Minister of Culture, Jack Lang. In 1986, she participated at the 2nd Biennial of La Havana, Cuba. In July 1987, she was honored by Algerian president Chadli. From 1980, Baya started suffering from a serious disease and died on November 9, 1998. Since her death, Baya’s work has been exhibited extensively in various museums and galleries. In 2018, Grey Art Gallery at New York University organised her first North American exhibition Baya, Woman of Algiers. Baya’s work is the subject of several international publications and her works can be found in numerous public and private collections worldwide.