Abstract

The Tunisian state and Tunisian cultural systems that predate it dictate social and material realities for Tunisian women. Where these systems of authority conflict, a woman may feel that she is herself in the reality she inhabits, yet she is also an other who surveils herself, resulting in a self/other dichotomy. Surrealism, while frequently associated with early twentieth-century Europe, is a liberatory approach that stretches across global art, poetry, and literature. One of its primary objectives is to challenge accepted realities. This article argues that artworks by the contemporary Tunisian artists Meriem Bouderbala and Najah Zarbout invoke the aesthetics and ideologies of surrealism to mediate the ground between the embodied self and the observer self through portrayals of female sexuality as constituted by multilayered selves. In doing so, they evoke a surrealist history of vision, doubling, and mirroring, reframing the female body as an absent presence that eludes surveillance and regulation.

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