UAE youths take over Jameel Arts Center

  • The Youth 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 Youth Takeover explores the journey of the inner child, nostalgia, the trials and tribulations of being and coming of age
  • The Youth Takeover (May 18-June 5) includes exhibitions of more than 20 artworks and 8 new commissions by emerging artists, displayed alongside existing works selected by the Assembly members from the Art Jameel Collection and private collectors, plus an exciting programme of workshops, talks, performances and films, running throughout the 3 weeks
  • Powered by the youth, Jameel Arts Centre will extend its opening hours to welcome visitors of all ages until 8 pm daily (closed on Tuesdays)

Dubai, United Arab Emirates – Art Jameel announces a total takeover of Jameel Arts 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 May 18 to June 5) 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, titled ‘smol’ is wholly curated and organised by this talented group of eight UAE creatives; the exhibitions feature works drawn from the Art 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, the Art Jameel Collection works on view feature artists such as Maha Malluh and Fayçal Baghriche, plus 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 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 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. Rey who, 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 May 18 – June 5, 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.”

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

More information and registration details will be available here soon – all events are free and open to the public.

Notes to Editors

Thematically, The Assembly’s focus this past year has been on research in the Global South and curation in languages other than English, engaging progressively with social practice. As a cohort comprised of creatives under 25 years old, they advocate for #youthcuratingyouth, with the official Takeover slogan #feelingsmol.

The Youth Assembly is an initiative that commenced in 2018 at Jameel Arts Centre – Dubai’s contemporary art museum – designed to foster creative leaders aged 18 to 25 and enable peer-to-peer exchange of ideas, discussions and to prompt self-initiated projects that utilise Art Jameel’s networks and opportunities.

The annually-appointed multidisciplinary cohort of UAE-based practising artists, researchers and entrepreneurs – known as The Assembly – collaborate to lead public programmes, commissioned exhibitions, community discussions and more, responding to both Art Jameel exhibitions and projects as well as current events and discourse.

In order to research, design and execute public engagements, The Assembly experiments primarily with curatorial practices featuring a Youth Curator and mentors, and focussing on five main areas:

  1. Creating
  2. Curating
  3. Community programming
  4. Commissioning
  5. Critiquing

The Jameel will be keeping its doors open after hours throughout the duration of the Youth Takeover (May 18 – June 5); opening hours:

Saturday to Thursday 10am-8pm

Friday 12pm-8pm

Tuesday closed

Meet The Assembly 2021-2022 members and curator

Alexis Javero

Alexis 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. Along with three of her university friends, Dania Al Tamimi, Doha Aboelezz and Nava Rizvi, she co-founded Rummān Collective with the objective to establish creative learning experiences for early-career artists.

“As part of the Assembly, I commissioned mango for the Youth Takeover. His work is located in the project space and displays a range of drawings from the past 2-3 years. The focus of mango’s work is to start a conversation with the people who enter that space, by allowing them a quiet place with paper and pens, which people can use to express their feelings and create drawings.”

“In the future, as an artist who is part of Rummān Collective, I look towards opening up this practice to bring different creatives together in dialogue – similar to how mango has. My vision includes all early-career artists, and aims to provide them with opportunities to share their work and practice.”

Anita Shishani

Anita is a multidisciplinary artist, curator and researcher, raised in Al Ain and of Chechen origin. She holds a B.A. in Art History from New York University Abu Dhabi where she specialised in Arab and Iranian modern and contemporary art. Anita is invested in researching the phenomenon of hurufiyya amongst Arab artists.

Anita is dedicated to archiving the artworks and lives of contemporary UAE-based artists through her podcast, Khosh Bosh. From the vantage point of a unique cultural crossroad, she is committed to empowering creative thinkers based in the UAE, helping them find their voice, tell their story, and strengthen their foothold in the global landscape. Anita currently works as a curator for Dirwaza Curatorial Lab.

Farah Fawzi Ali

Farah is an Egyptian-Filipina writer and researcher with a BA in Political Science from the American University in Cairo. 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. Driven by her mixed cultural heritage and Gulf upbringing, Farah is committed to widening spaces of representation and offering platforms for community-spirited interactions and personal histories. Traversing between her analytical mind and compassionate soul, Farah’s passion for cultivating discourse and collective meaning-making is deeply reflected and interwoven in her writing, research, and programming endeavours.

“As a first-time curator, I desired to explore how one can use adult insight to learn from childhood experiences and have it be a point of reflection and growth, rather than mere memories. This pushed me to commission Khaled Esguerra, a 19-year-old Palestinian Filipino artist who is deeply interested in documenting the immigrant communities of the Khaleej. Working closely with him led to his installation ‘Abu Dha-Me’, where Esguerra reclaims his own narrative by playfully becoming the master planner of Abu Dhabi City, renaming neighbourhoods and buildings and putting his mark on the city he grew up in. The installation also invites visitors to take up space and add to the piece.”

“Being of mixed cultural heritage with a Gulf upbringing has driven me to be committed to widening the spaces of representation and offering platforms for diverse personal histories. That is what I wish for the future of artists, that they be given the platform to explore and reclaim their own narratives, deeply and critically, hopefully offering more space to punctuate and activate more Global South voices.”

Lubnah Ansari

Lubnah Ansari dissects notions of personal and political questions with fervent curiosity. Utilizing her multidisciplinary skills, the artist and researcher engages with Hindu-Muslim households using feminist ethnographic frameworks. The NYU Abu Dhabi graduate has immersed herself in the roles of both the insider and the outsider, which gives her work a refreshing angle that urges you to tap into your compassion. She is currently a post-graduate research fellow at NYU Abu Dhabi.

Raheed Allaf

The corners of Raheed Allaf’s life have been defined by Photography, Poetry, and Design. Raheed’s visual narratives serve as her nostalgic and surrealist escapes from reality, and a vessel through which she visualises her poetry. Having studied Multimedia Design at the American University of Sharjah, the Saudi Arabian storyteller aspires to immerse herself in different experiences to express the stories she comes across through mediums that tell them best.

Rashid Almheiri

A fluid Emirati visual artist illuminated with a B.A degree in Graphic Design from the American University in Dubai. Rashid has invisible dialogues with objects, moments and emotions, and likes to cultivate his interests in biology, psychology and sociology into forms of expression, and is continuously gravitating towards creating poetic experiences.

Shama Nair
Shama is a photographer, writer, and artist based in the UAE. Drawn to the intersection between urbanity and visual culture, her work explores our spatial, temporal, and aesthetic relationships with an ever-expanding neoliberal metropolis. She graduated as a Media Studies major from the Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts, Pune in 2018 and returned to Dubai where she continues to collaborate with arts and academic institutions between India and the UAE. She currently works with the Bombay Institute for Critical Analysis and Research and on art/architecture programming for the Goethe-Institut, Gulf Region.


Sree is an artist-researcher, theater maker, and music producer who experiments with sound, sight, people, and movement. Through these experiments, he introspects his identity, culture, taboos, and place in the world. Having completed his undergraduate education in Theater and Music at NYU Abu Dhabi, he is currently part of the 9th cohort of the Salama bint Hamdan Emerging Artist Fellowship. Sree has been part of research, production and educational programs with various organizations including the Humboldt Forum in Berlin, Bhasha Center in Bangalore, MELA Foundation in NYC, as well as art institutions in the U.A.E such as Warehouse 421, NYUAD Arts Center and Jameel Arts Centre. Through art, he tries to make sense of what it is to be a brown cis-man that calls Dubai home, while holding an Indian passport.


Assembly curator bio:

Daniel H. Rey

Daniel 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. An emerging writer, arts educator, and public programmer, his work has been presented and reviewed in the Americas, the Arab Gulf, and Scandinavia.

Daniel holds degrees in social sciences and theatre from NYU Abu Dhabi and is an Alumnus of Jameel Art Centre’s Assembly programme (2020), as well as current Curator and Tutor of the third edition (2021-22). He has recently launched Almacén المخزن Armazém, a multimedia research project storing and exhibiting creative practices tied to both Latin America and the Arab world. Daniel feels at home in Paraguay, Norway, the UAE, and hopefully in Mars.