Jessica El Mal is a multidisciplinary artist, writer and curator addressing global structures of power through critical research, participatory projects and speculative future imaginaries. Often centered around collaboration, co-curation and collective knowledge systems, projects usually include research, workshops and artwork project intended to have a lasting effect past the point of production.
We talked all things climate action, social justice and tackling inequalities through exhibition making and programming.
What made you interested in climate change and why was it important to raise awareness of ecology and colonialism and climate injustice in your work?
I have always been interested in people, working with people in my communities. Increasingly these were the issues that were affecting people the most. It wasn't always clear to me the links between the things I cared about, for example forced migration, injustice, the climate, but actually they are all connected. More than it seems on the surface, so its important for me to expose these links.
Also exhibited at Open Eye Gallery for LAAF 21 16/07/2021 - 17/08/2021
You recently led Jarda, a project with the Arab British Centre with an exhibition at the People’s History Museum in Manchester. What was the concept behind the exhibition?
The project began as a way for us to explore our identities as women from the SWANA region and our relation to natural spaces in Manchester where we all live. But it became so much more than that. It was such a talented group of women, who were compassionate, loving, caring and so creative. The exhibition was a result of 6 workshops and the women’s time, effort and dedication outside of them too. I think it’s fair to say we have become lifelong friends.
A view of an artwork at Jarda exhibition
Can you tell us about A.MAL?
A.MAL is an art and research project exploring ecology, migration and the interconnected ness of these things. We started by running one online residency project for Morocco and U.K. based artists, and have another project with Lost Species Day and ONCA Brighton lined up.
Image taken from Nature is Ours: Forest of Cultures an online artsite platforming non-western voices inspired by Grizedale Forest in response to the lack of representation of people of colour in the UK’s green spaces and climate justice concerns.
How did the concept for the Red Gold Reflections project, which is led by A.MAL in collaboration with Dardashi come about?
Algae is a a resource sourced in Morocco and sold on global markets, used in the U.K. especially as vegan substitutes for gelatin, material and animal feed. This became the entry point for the first research residency focusing on a U.K. and Morocco exchange. As well as producing new collaborative artworks, the residents had the opportunity to develop their work into a public online event with Dardishi. They have chosen to host workshops, reading groups and film viewings.
There is a thoughtfully curated program of events led by the artists involved in Red Gold Reflections. What do you hope to achieve through the project?
Yes the program is super exciting! It’s a way for the public - especially those unable to attend any of the physical exhibitions - to engage with the artists research
Can Islamic art and Muslim creativity raise awareness of climate justice issues in the future?
This is a very big question but I definitely think it can.
For more information about Jessica El Mal check out https://www.elmalart.com/
Islam is a religion that encourages environmental responsibility, and sustainable development is not a new concept to Muslims. Islam has a rich tradition of highlighting the importance of environmental protection and conservation of natural resources. At Bayt Al Fann we are committed to highlighting art and exhibitions that raise awareness of climate action.
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