Farhat, Safia (1924–2004) By Gerschultz, Jessica
Safia Foudhaïli Farhat was a Tunisian artist, arts administrator, and teacher. She was among the few elite Tunisian girls to receive a primary and secondary education in schools of the French Protectorate. In 1952 she was the third female Tunisian student to graduate from the colonial École des Beaux-Arts in Tunis. After independence in 1956, Farhat became the first Tunisian woman to teach at the Beaux-Arts, where she directed the atelier of decoration from 1958 until 1966. Along with Abdelaziz Gorgi, she was instrumental in launching an arts curriculum aligned with government initiatives for national development. Specifically, she partnered with the Office Nationale de l’Artisanat to revitalize artistic heritage and modernize local industries. She is credited with formally training the first generation of female art students, and was an influence on fibre artists such as Fatma Samet and Mohamed Njeh. In 1964 and 1966 Farhat was promoted to assistant director and director respectively, thus becoming the first Tunisian to head the École des Beaux-Arts. She held this position until 1973, the same year she engineered the joining of the art school (thereafter called the Institut Technologique d’Art d’Architecture et d’Urbanisme or ITAAUT) with the national university system.