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

The public realm interventions launched by Alserkal Arts Foundation are curated by Janine Gaëlle Dieudji, and will incorporate displays by artist Lakwena Maciver known for her bold use of colour.

The celebratory intervention Homecoming takes over Alserkal Avenue from September to December 2021. Across both internal and external areas at Alserkal Avenue, home to a diverse community and a wide public audience, Homecoming activates cultural space as a source of comfort and well-being in these challenging times and recollect ourselves in the present moment.

Janine Gaëlle Dieudji

Janine Gaelle

Image courtesy of Ayoub Bardil 

Can you expand on how you started out in the art world and was curation always a passion?

As a multilocal, I lived so many different lives in different places that led me to where I am today, but my initial path and academic background were not really designed to take me here. I studied Sociology, Political Science, then International Studies & Culture as I was fascinated with diplomacy and wanted to be one of these women in suit, 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 Galerie du jour Agnès b., moving to Florence definitely played a huge role. Living and breathing in an open-air museum such as the city of Renaissance made me fully embrace my creativity, from the way I dress to how I started crafting my future. From visual arts, fashion to the cinema, I had the privilege to interact and build relationships with so many creative minds who inspired me and still continue to do so. My experiences led me on to being an art studio manager, an 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 Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL) in Marrakech since 2017.

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

A few years ago, a curator told me that “we curate emotions.” This has stayed with stayed me since then. I don’t really define myself as a curator, mostly as a cultural producer and an ‘artivist’, a creative that sees and tries to understand the world surrounding her through the lens of art. I tried for quite a long to separate the head from the heart in my work, but a few years ago, I came to the fact that they create magic together, and I embrace it. Curating an exhibition, like producing an artwork, comes from different places, but very often from a place of emotion. Curating is also about putting artists and their artworks first, sometimes making their dreams come true, not yours. Selecting works for an art project is a process, that starts with what we’re trying to say, to communicate, and I’m grateful to the Alserkal Arts Foundation and its team for the invitation to contribute to the narrative they are crafting within their institution. In the case of HOMECOMING, we wanted to repurpose the public space, but also to remind the public of their role and place in the art community. Proposing text-based interventions such as the works of artists such Lakwena Maciver, whom I came across the work for the first time in London in 2015 with the mural “BE BAD UNTIL YOU’RE GOOD”, Kameelah Janan Rasheed and Augustine Paredes that question knowledge production and the occupation of physical and mental spaces felt the right choice to me, and I’m truly happy Alserkal’s team went for that. We’ve been facing critical times for almost two years now. The COVID-19 crisis clearly showed us that multilateralism only works in times of peace. The various social protests around the world during this time brought special attention to matters such as racism, police brutality, inequality amongst people, matters around xenophobia and discrimination, as people started to develop and encourage the notion of critical thinking.

What does your role as Exhibitions Director at the Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL) involve?

I joined MACAAL in 2017 in Florence then moved to Marrakech. It’s been an incredible experience so far as I’ve navigated into so many different fields in the art world. I’m committed to building an inclusive museum, through the curation and production of exhibitions, as well as educational programmes and artist residencies. Key areas of my work consist in overseeing the exhibitions programmes at MACAAL, developing and producing public programs, art residencies, contributing to institutional partnerships relations, and special projects. I also curate exhibitions and write on topics pertaining to contemporary African art and artists, museums, and cross-cultural interactions.

Lakwena Maciver

Lakwena Maciver

What first led you to work in the art space and how did you define your preferred medium?

My practice is mainly based around painting, but more recently I’ve enjoyed being able to work with the fluidity of textiles. I’m interested in the connotations of banners and flags, especially the political and heraldic connotations surrounding them. The way they lend themselves to bearing messages, is something that feels like a very natural medium for my work.

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

I’m really interested in messages as I think a lot about the different types of words that we’re surrounded by in this modern society. Words often have a hidden meaning behind them and they’re trying to sell us something. I think words are very powerful, so I see my work, particularly when it’s in public spaces, as a manner of diversifying public speech.

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

I was intrigued with how the project was based in Dubai, as I hadn’t displayed my work here before. To be a part of the wider project and connect with different artists opens up a whole new world for me which is really exciting.

The Best is Yet to Come

Your approach to art is instinctive – was this from the outset and has your style grown over time?

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

You challenge the voice of mass media-tell us more about this approach?

Mass media is controlled by a small number of people who very much set the agenda for what is spoken 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 mass media.

This is ‘The Renegade Issue’ – When have you had to take this approach to life and who do you feel is a true renegade in their field?

I was born into this society, but I’m constantly questioning its prevailing beliefs and principles, and asking myself whether what is currently fashionable is actually true and life-giving. My practice is very much an outworking of that on a daily basis. The American comedian Dave Chappelle seems to be a true renegade to me.

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

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Images: Supplied