Imminent Youth Takeover of Jameel Arts Centre Dubai aims to empower and enrich - GulfToday

Imminent Youth Takeover of Jameel Arts Centre Dubai aims to empower and enrich


A work commissioned by the Jameel Assembly.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

Breaking news! UAE youth to “takeover” Jameel Arts Centre, Dubai! The Youth Takeover will begin from May 18 and hopefully, the Centre will be surrendered back to the authorities on June 5, after the presentation of an innovative intervention of more than 20 works plus eight new commissions and a mass of workshops, film screenings and performances.The new commissions span 2D and 3D illustrations, installation, audiovisual works and paintings. The Takeover is the culmination of Art Jameel’s year-long, annual talent development programme, designed to nurture creative talent, engagement and peer-to-peer knowledge exchange.

Eight young creatives under 25-years-old from across the UAE, were selected from several hundred applicants for this year’s Jameel Assembly. Titled ‘smol’, the third iteration of the Takeover explores the journey of the inner child, nostalgia and the trials and tribulations of being and coming of age.  Youth creations will be displayed alongside works from the Art Jameel Collection and private collectors, and will be centered on the Centre’s public spaces - from its Lobby and Galleries 9 and 10, through to the stairs, lockers, elevators and beyond. The exhibitions also feature works loaned from the Endjavi-Barbe Art Collection.


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The Youth cohort has attended monthly seminars on topics ranging from collection care and curation, through to critiquing and the making of a strong community. Interventions and provocations include a re-imagined map of Abu Dhabi, a vanity set with childhood videos, an immersive room-wide illustration, and paintings accompanied by sourced audio.

A key pillar in the Assembly’s research throughout the year, the Art Jameel Collection’s works on view features artists such as Maha Malluh and Faycal Baghriche, chosen for their inspiration in the Assembly’s exploration of the inner child.

Symbolising the UAE’s multiculturalism, the Youth Takeover features artists and curators from UAE, Egypt, Philippines, Pakistan, Palestine, India, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Chechnya, and covers a breadth of cultures and languages, including Tagalog, Chechen, Russian, Arabic, Hindi, Malayalam and Urdu.

The Jameel Assembly participants.

The 2021/2022 Assembly members are: Alexis Javero, Anita Shishani, Farah Fawzi Ali, Lubnah Ansari, Raheed Allaf, Rashid Almheiri, Shama Nair and Sree. They are led by independent curator and Assembly 2020 alumnus Daniel H. Rey who, in collaboration with the Art Jameel Learning team, curated and facilitated the year-long learning programme.

On their chosen theme, the Assembly members said: “smol taps into the curiosities and transformations of being and coming of age, invoking carefree possibilities, nostalgia, new adventures, as well as feelings of powerlessness and vulnerability in today’s world.

“Metaphorically and stylistically, ‘smol’ is an opportunity to colour outside the lines, bridging dreams with reality, while confronting constricting rules and rituals.” Rey said that “this refreshing creative alignment, across members from diverse fields, truly fuels the Takeover as a culmination, a celebration, and invitation to embrace #feelingsmol.”  Other young, upcoming local and regional creatives who have been commissioned by the Assembly will develop works and design public programmes in response to the theme.

It includes movement and zine-making sessions; a workshop to visualise a dreamhouse through the lens of Gulf-Kerala migration experiences; a film programme responding to the inner child through a feminist lens; a walking tour of Dubai; urban sketching sessions; and participatory theatre performances, among others.

Thematically, the Assembly’s focus in the past year has been on research in the Global South and curation in languages other than English. Advocacy is through #youthcuratingyouth, and the official Takeover slogan is #feelingsmol.

The Youth Assembly experiments primarily with curatorial practices featuring a Youth Curator and mentors and focuses on five main areas: creating; curating; community programming; commissioning and critiquing.

Javero is a Filipino artist based in the UAE. She has a deep interest in writing, which lies at the heart of her artistic practice. She holds a BFA in Fine Arts from the University of Sharjah, and has exhibited her work in Maraya Art Center, Sharjah Art Museum and others.

Shishani is a multidisciplinary artist, curator and researcher, raised in Al Ain and is of Chechen origin. She is invested in researching the phenomenon of hurufiyya among Arab artists and is dedicated to archiving the artworks and lives of contemporary UAE-based artists through her podcast, Khosh Bosh. Ali is an Egyptian-Filipina writer and her written works can be found in Postscript Magazine, MariasAtSampaguitas, Art Dubai and Global Art Daily. She is currently part of the Arts Writing Agency.

Ansari dissects personal and political questions and engages with Hindu-Muslim households, using feminist ethnographic frameworks. She is a post-graduate research fellow at NYU Abu Dhabi. Allaf’s art life has been defined by photography, poetry, and design. The Saudi Arabian storyteller aspires to immerse herself in different experiences to express the stories she comes across through mediums that tell them best. Emirati visual artist Almheiri likes to cultivate his interests in biology, psychology and sociology with forms of expression, and through poetic experiences. Nair is a photographer, writer, and artist based in the UAE. She collaborates with arts and academic institutions between India and the UAE. Sree is an artist-researcher, theatre maker and music producer who experiments with sound, sight, people and movement. Rey is an independent curator advocating for #YouthCuratingYouth and cross-pollination in the Global South. His work balances institutional and grassroots presence via Art Jameel, Dirwaza Curatorial Lab, and Global Art Daily. A writer, arts educator, and public programmer, his work has been presented and reviewed in the Americas, the Gulf and Scandinavia.


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