Houria Niati was born in Khemis Miliana, French Algeria in 1948 where she lived through the war of independence (1954-1962). Niati was 6 years old when she heard the first explosions launching the war which lasted 7 years and costing the lives of over one million Algerians resisting the French occupation. At the age of 12, Niati and three classmates were arrested and briefly jailed for painting anti-colonial graffiti and demonstrating against the French authorities. Her experiences during this time greatly influenced the art produced later in life. Niati’s passion for art started at a young age. Following in the footsteps of her father, a self-taught landscape painter inspired by the art of the impressionists, she initially trained in Community Arts in Algiers. In 1977, Niati moved to London enrolling on a fine art course at Croydon College of Art, followed by an MA in Fine Art at Middlesex University. Niati has been exhibiting her work internationally since 1983. Her practice consists of painting, drawing, installation, video, digital art, poetry and singing performance. Niati is perhaps best known for her powerful painting installation No To Torture (After Delacroix’s Women of Algiers, 1834) made in 1982 and consisting of 5 large panels – this work played a major role in launching Niati’s career in 1980s London. Niati was included in the 1983 exhibition Five Black Women (Sonia Boyce, Lubaina Himid, Claudette Johnson, Houria Niati and Veronica Ryan) organised by Lubaina Himid and held at the Africa Centre, London. Several of Niati’s installations including To Bring Water From The Fountain Has Nothing Romantic About It explore oriental images and colonial postcards. These works have further established her reputation as an international artist whose work is intimately self-referential, documenting her own multicultural history. Family photos and snippets of the past are hidden behind a veil of whimsical calligraphy written in English, French and Arabic text and selected from the artist’s own poetry, questioning the process of integration and what it means to live with several cultures simultaneously.
Houria Niati has taken part in group and individual exhibitions in the Clinton Foundation, USA; University of Southern Mississippi; Kennedy Center, Washington DC; British Museum; Museo di Storia Contemporaria Milano, Italy; CCCB Barcelona International Art Festival; Modern Art Museum, Valencia; Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery, London; Museum of Porte D'Amboise, Rhodes; UNESCO Galerie, Paris; SOAS, London; Museum of the African Art, Florida; Contemporary Art Museum, Florida; Herbert Johnson Museum, USA; Cornell University, New York; Third International Biennial of Arts, Sharjah, UAE; Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts, Florida: Walnut Creek Civic Centre, California; Gwinnett Art Centre, Duluth; Giorgia Nexus Contemporary Arts Centre, Atlanta; Wolson Galleries, Florida; Chicago Cultural Centre; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington DC; Harris Museum, Preston; Ikon Gallery, Birmingham; Cartwright Hall Museum, Bradford; Barbican Centre, London; Whitechapel Gallery, London; Fruitmarket, Edinburgh; Galerie Issiakhem, Algiers; Riverside Studios, London; Brixton Art Gallery, London; Battersea Arts Centre, London; La Galerie de CCWA, Algiers; Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield; The Castle Museum, Nottingham; Galerie Bretesche, Paris; The Africa Centre, London; Maison de la Culture, Tizi-Ouzou, Algeria; Le Centre Cultural, Ain Defla, Algeria La Bibliotheque, Chlef, Algeria.
Houria Niati: No To Torture 31 March - 7 May 2023, Felix & Spear, London
No To Torture (After Delacroix Women of Algiers, 1834)
oil on canvas
188 x 270 cm
No to Torture (detail)
No to Torture (detail)