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UAE Youth ‘Takeover’ the Jameel Arts Centre

by Eddie Rayner

Art Jameel announces a total takeover of Jameel Art Centre’s public spaces – from its Lobby and Galleries 9 and 10, through to the stairs, lockers, elevators and beyond – by the third cohort of the Youth Assembly. The intervention (from 18 May to 5 June) is the culmination of a year-long talent development programme at Dubai’s contemporary art museum; through 2021-22, the cohort has attended monthly seminars on topics from collection care and curation through to critiquing and the making of a strong community, plus developed projects (including the Takeover) through mentorship and peer-to-peer exchange.

The Youth Takeover 2022, entitled ‘smol’, is wholly curated and organised by this talented group of eight UAE creatives; the exhibitions feature works drawn from theArt Jameel Collection, loans from the Endjavi-Barbé Art Collection, and eight new commissions by emerging homegrown artists, spanning 2D and 3D illustrations, installation, audiovisual works and paintings. 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, theArt Jameel Collection works with artists such as Maha Malluh and Fayçal Baghriche, in addition to loans from the Endjavi-Barbé Art Collection, chosen for their inspiration in the Assembly’s exploration of the inner child.

Typical of the UAE’s multiculturalism, the Youth Takeover’s third iteration features artists and curators from the 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.

Eight young creatives under 25-years-old from across the UAE were selected from several hundred applicants for this year’s Jameel Assembly

The 2021/2022 Assembly members are Alexis Javero, Anita Shishani, Farah Fawzi Ali, Lubnah Ansari, Raheed Allaf, Rashid Almheiri, Shama Nair and Sree, led by independent curator and Assembly 2020 alumnus Daniel H Reywho, in collaboration with the Art Jameel Learning team, curated and facilitated a year-long learning programme, designed to support and nurture artistic youth leadership, engagement and peer-to-peer exchange of knowledge and skills.

On their chosen theme, the 2021/2022 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.”

Curator of the 2021/22 Assembly learning programme, Daniel H Rey, said: “From 18 May to 5 June, the Jameel will be buzzing with youthful energy and curiosity, reflective of a regional art community willing to propose anew. This refreshing creative alignment, across members from diverse fields, truly fuels the takeover as a culmination, a celebration, and invitation to embrace #feelingsmol.”

Entitled ‘smol’, the third iteration of the Youth Takeover explores the journey of the inner child, nostalgia, the trials and tribulations of being and coming of age

The Assembly members have commissioned other young, upcoming local and regional creatives to develop works and design public programmes in response to the theme. This intensive programme, running throughout the takeover, and all free for the community, 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 many.

Public Programme

May 18 (opening preview, all welcome): Exhibitions and Jameel Takeover opening — includes Abu Dha-me Sound Activation by Khaled Esguerra

May 20, 25 and 28 (zine workshop): be-ing by Rummān Collective

May 21 (zine workshop): Dream Houses by Another Empty House

May 22 (photowalk): Under a Sky in Transit by Zeashan Ashraf and Shama Nair

May 22 (youth-led crafts market): Support the smols, organised by Farah Fawzi Ali

May 27 (screening and workshop): Cartoons screening and writing exercises by Anita Shishani

May 28 (making workshop): Exploring the Inner Child amidst Urban Metabolism by Manupriam Seth and Lubnah Ansari

May 29 (talk): Smol Panel Discussion by the Assembly 2021-2022 and programme curator Daniel H. Rey

May 29 and June 4 (play): Every Brilliant Thing by The Junction starring Gautam Goenka

June 4 (kids tour): Mind Door Imagination, a tour for children and families by Rashid Almheiri

All events are free and open to the public.