Inji Aflatoun was one of Egypt's most skilled and known painters. She was born in 1924 , to a French-aristocratic family that she described herself, as “semi-feudal and borgeois”, her father being an entomologist and her mother owning a dress and tailor shop in Cairo, which also happened to be the first one run by a woman. This is important.
She started painting at the age of 15 and joined the Lycée Français du Caire, the French Lycee in Cairo, where she came to know of Marxism and became versed in it. She would also take classes from Kamel el-Telmissany, one of the leading artists of the time and founding member of the Art et Liberté group, who introduced Aflatoun to the idea of “Art and Freedom”. A movement that involved the use of Cubism and Surrealism as an outlet and tool by communism-leaning intellectuals and artists.
She went on to join Iskra, a communist youth party, in 1942.
Aflatoun was one of the first women to study at the art department of the University of Cairo. Along with communism to protest the imperialist government, she was strongly drawn into feminism, encouraged, perhaps by the example of her self-sufficient mother.
In 1945, Aflatoun was a founding member of the “ligue des jeunes femmes des universities et des institutes” (the League of Young Women in Universities and Institutes), a group that campaigned heavily for gender equality. She was the one who represented the League at the first conference of Women’s International Democratic Federation in Paris during the same year.
Along with her fellows - other women intellectuals and activists — she continued to promote left wing politics and anti-colonial ideology, in both Egypt and Europe.
She wrote two political pamphlets in 1948 and ’49, titled “Eighty Million Women with Us” and “We Egyptian Women” respectively, on gender and class oppression in an effort to bolster the position of women and propagate peace.
In 1952, when Gamal Abdel-Nasser overthrew the Egyptian monarchy, Aflatoun was arrested amongst his anti-communistic actions and imprisoned. In 1963 was she released and from then on, with the communist party dissolved, she reserved her life for art and painting, which she did till her death in 1989.