Art History’s Best Mustaches: Huda Lutfi’s Bespectacled and Mustachioed Self-Portrait

Benjamin Sutton, Blouin Artinfo, November 18, 2013

After a string of more or less ancient art historical mustaches from our month-long series in honor of male cancer awareness campaign Movember, we decided to start the week off contemporary with this mixed-media sculpture by Cairo artist Huda Lutfi, who melds elements of photography, sculpture, collage and found object installation in her conceptual practice. Titled “Lipstick and Mustache” (2010), the sculptural diptych features two busts cast from her own head, one made masculine with a mustache, the other feminized with bright red lipstick (see below). Both sport sunglasses whose lenses have been replaced with images of soldiers.

Lutfi, who is a professor in the American University in Cairo’s department of Arab and Islamic civilization, often reinterprets and reconfigures imagery from Middle Eastern art history and contemporary Arab politics through a feminist lens. In “Lipstick and Mustache,” she crafts a playful commentary on the nature of gender dynamics and power relations in contemporary Egypt.

A longtime resident of downtown Cairo, Lutfi’s work has only become more politicized since the 2011 revolution and protests in Tahrir Square.

“Like many artists, I was daunted by the spontaneous creative impulses of the square,” she told Jadaliyya in 2012. “The only thing that I felt I could do at the time was build some kind of archive, if only to preserve a memory of what I have seen and emotionally experienced.”

In the immediate aftermath of the revolution she wrote a first-hand account of the events on her street for the New York Times, concluding:

Although relative peace has now returned to our street, the young men of our neighborhood continue to watch over our safety day and night. No doubt the assumption of such responsibility in the absence of the local police force has empowered these young men, showing them one of many ways to assume civil responsibility in their country.


From the Blouin Artinfo website.