Two popular artists on the celebratory intervention launched at Alserkal Avenue – Emirates Woman


October’s – ‘The Renegade Issue’ – Download Now

The public domain interventions launched by the Alserkal Arts Foundation are curated by Janine Gaëlle Dieudji and will include exhibitions by artist Lakwena Maciver known for her daring use of color.

The Homecoming festive intervention occupies Alserkal Avenue from September to December 2021. In the internal and external areas of Alserkal Avenue, which is home to a diverse community and a large audience, Homecoming activates the cultural space as a source of comfort and well-being in these difficult times and remembering the present moment.

Janine Gaëlle Dieudji

Image courtesy of Ayoub Bardil

Can you explain how you got started in the art world and how has curation always been a passion?

As a multi-local, I have lived so many different lives in different places that have led me to where I am today, but my initial journey and my college journey was not really designed to get me here. I studied sociology, political science, then international studies and culture because I was fascinated by diplomacy and wanted to be one of those women in costume, but it never suited me. Although I already had some experience in the arts as an intern in France and used to visit museums and art spaces such as the Galerie du jour Agnès b., Moving to Florence certainly played a huge role. Living and breathing in an open-air museum like Renaissance City made me fully embrace my creativity, from the way I dress to the way I started to shape my future. From visual arts to fashion to film, I have had the privilege of interacting and bonding with so many creative minds who have inspired me and continue to do so. My experiences led me to be director of an art workshop, independent art consultant, then vice-president and co-director of the cultural association Black History Month Florence (BHMF), which I still am today, as well as director of exhibitions at the Al Maaden Museum of Contemporary African Art (MACAAL) in Marrakech since 2017.

Does curating come from both the head and the heart and how do you balance the two when selecting the works to be presented?

A few years ago a Conservative told me that “we manage emotions”. It has stayed with me ever since. I don’t really define myself as a curator, but rather as a cultural producer and an “artivist”, a creator who sees and tries to understand the world around her through the prism of art. I have tried for quite a long time to separate the head from the heart in my work, but a few years ago I realized that they create magic together, and I embrace it. The curation of an exhibition, like the production of a work of art, comes from different places, but very often from a place of emotion. Curating is also about putting artists and their works of art first, sometimes making their dreams come true, not yours. Selecting works for an art project is a process, which begins with what we are trying to say, to communicate, and I am grateful to the Alserkal Arts Foundation and its team for the invitation to contribute to the narrative that they develop within their institution. In the case of HOMECOMING, we wanted to requalify the public space, but also remind the public of its role and its place in the artistic community. Propose textual interventions such as the works of artists like Lakwena Maciver, whose work I saw for the first time in London in 2015 with the mural “BE BAD UNTIL YOU’RE GOOD”, Kameelah Janan Rasheed and Augustine Paredes who question the production of knowledge and the occupation of physical and mental spaces seemed to me the right choice, and I am really happy that the Alserkal team chose this. We have been living in critical moments for almost two years now. The COVID-19 crisis has made it clear to us that multilateralism only works in peacetime. The various social protests around the world during this period drew special attention to issues such as racism, police brutality, inequalities between people, issues of xenophobia and discrimination, as people began to develop and to encourage the notion of critical thinking.

What does your role as director of exhibitions at the Al Maaden Museum of Contemporary African Art (MACAAL) consist of?

I joined MACAAL in 2017 in Florence then I moved to Marrakech. It has been an amazing experience as I have navigated so many different areas in the art world. I am committed to building an inclusive museum, through the conservation and production of exhibitions, as well as educational programs and artist residencies. The key areas of my work are overseeing exhibition programs at MACAAL, developing and producing public programs, art residencies, contributing to institutional partnership relationships and special projects. I also organize exhibitions and write on topics relating to contemporary African art and artists, museums and intercultural interactions.

Lakwena maciver

Lakwena maciver

What brought you to work in the art field and how did you define your preferred medium?

My practice revolves mainly around painting, but more recently I have liked being able to work with the fluidity of textiles. I am interested in the connotations of banners and flags, especially the political and heraldic connotations that surround them. The way they lend themselves to carrying messages is something that seems like a very natural way for my job.

Can you develop the inspiration behind your use of bold typographic texts?

I’m really interested in messages because I think a lot about the different types of words that surround us in this modern society. Words often have a meaning hidden behind them and they are trying to sell us something. I think words are very powerful, so I see my work, especially when it’s in public space, as a way to diversify public speech.

How did you feel when you were first approached by the Alserkal Arts Foundation for their last public intervention?

I was intrigued by how the project was based in Dubai, as I had never exhibited my work here before. Being part of the larger project and connecting with different artists opens up a whole new world to me which is really exciting.

The best is yet to come

Your approach to art is instinctive – was it from the start and has your style developed over time?

As a child, art was an instinctive way for me to process experiences. It was a coping mechanism, and still is in many ways. What people see as positive affirmations is my response to difficulties and the painting of life. Each piece tells the truth in real life situations. As I am invited to do work on an incredibly larger scale, there is more need for careful planning, so in these contexts I am not able to improvise as much, but in the planning stages the work is always very driven by instinct.

You call on the voice of the mass media to tell us more about this approach?

Mass media are controlled by a small number of people who set the agenda for what is talked about, what is celebrated, what is valued and what is believed. This gives them immense power to comment on culture. My intention with my work is to subtly challenge some of the concepts promoted by the mass media.

It’s ‘The Renegade Issue’ – When did you first have to take this approach to life and who do you think is a true renegade in their field?

I was born into this society, but I constantly question its dominant beliefs and principles, and wonder if what is currently in fashion is actually true and invigorating. My practice is a daily realization. The American actor Dave Chappelle seems to me to be a real renegade.

October’s – ‘The Renegade Issue’ – Download Now

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Images: Supplied


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