This striking image of Natacha Atlas, known for her fusion of Arabic, North African, and Western electronic music (particularly hip-hop), was inspired by the glamorous celebrity photographs common in mid-twentieth-century Cairo. It is one of several portraits Youssef Nabil made of the pop singer in which he creates an anachronistic effect by hand painting the black-and-white photograph. Atlas is depicted here as a belly dancer, in a strong and sexually unabashed manner. Supine, sensuous, and headless, she is unaware of the viewer’s gaze. The notion of the "gaze," which activates a Western Orientalist fiction of the Middle East, is perhaps what this image is all about. It also reflects the artist’s fascination with Egyptian films of the 1950s to 70s.
Born in Cairo in 1972, Youssef Nabil began his career as a photographer in 1992 by re-creating famous scenes from the Egyptian cinema with his friends. Since then his solo work has entered numerous museum collections, including those of the British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. He has exhibited in the United States, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East as well.