Inji Efflatoun was born in 1924 to a wealthy family from Cairo’s French-speaking aristocracy. Her mother, a divorcee, opened the first tailoring shop run by a woman. Inji Efflatoun received a strict catholic education before studying at the French Lycée in Cairo, where she became familiar with Marxism. She started painting very early on and, from the age of fifteen, took classes with Kamel el-Telmissany, one of the representatives of Egyptian surrealism.
The painter introduced her to the “Art et Liberté” (“Art and Freedom”) movement, a group of artists and intellectuals of communist and anti-imperialist orientation which made use of surrealist creative processes – an influence perceptible in the artist’s earlier output.
Inji Efflatoun quickly asserted her political stance in “Art et Liberté” by engaging in intense militant activity for the better part of fifteen years as from 1940. She was one of the first women to study in the arts department of the University of Cairo, and in 1945 she took part in the creation of the Ligue des jeunes femmes des universities et des instituts (League of young women in universities and institutes), which promoted left-wing, anti-colonialist politics, and campaigned for gender equality.
Working for a short while as a teacher and as a journalist, she published several manifestos and, with a small group of women intellectuals and militants, participated in numerous actions in Egypt and Europe in favour of women’s rights and peace.