Pioneering incubator Dirwaza Curatorial Lab launches Microfund for UAE creatives

The exhibition Between Heaven and Earth at the Middle East Institute, USA, was curated by Munira Al Sayegh.

Muhammad Yusuf, feature film editor

Dirwaza Curatorial Lab, the Abu Dhabi-based creative incubator and project partner founded by curator Munira Al Sayegh, has launched its Microfund for UAE-based creatives, inviting creative practitioners in the UAE to apply for its first Microfund, from May 1. curated several exhibitions, including Zemanna – Replaying the 90s (Manarat Al Saadiyat, closing June 13) and the NYU Abu Dhabi Master of Fine Arts Year One exhibition (opening May 21). Other projects include an upcoming publication with an in-depth discussion of the 90s and a bilingual interactive glossary for the creative community in the UAE.

Co-organized by Dirwaza Curatorial Lab with Dubai-based independent curator Sarah Daher, the Microfund is designed to support the art ecosystem with local, multidisciplinary and collective efforts, while focusing on community-led research . “We are looking for the curious,” says Al Sayegh. “Curiosity is at the heart of the Dirwaza incubator and the Microfund initiative within it, and can be generated in research, whether in its early stages, its intermediate stages or its final stages.”


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The Microfund encourages creatives at large to think cyclically and in lines, so that curatorial practice as well as artistic practice has a beginning, a theme, a particular exploration and the right to a conceptual framework. Microfund collaboration with Daher includes outreach, application review and mentorship for selected participants. The joint effort gives Dirwaza and Daher a framework to generate long-term research and foster collaborations between different thinkers across the Emirates.

Together, the hosts question what a curatorial space really is; they are therefore open to seeing people who work outside the curatorial sphere come in and generate questions as well as add new terms and language to conversations.

Zemanna is a visual exploration of reinterpreted memories of 1990s Abu Dhabi – dissecting, reflecting and responding to a time of change, flux and expansion. In the exhibition, the artists have been commissioned to present nine interactive installations that address the remnants of the 1990s and how they contributed to the present. The installations reflect the dynamism and density of this period of the past, highlighting the emergence of a community in full transformation. Set in a multi-room experience, it highlights key features of this era such as the Volcano Fountain, the re-rooting of migrant families in the United Arab Emirates, and the role of pop culture, media and gaming. exhibition is curated by Al Sayegh.

Munira Al Sayegh, founder of the Dirwaza Curatorial Lab.

The NYU Abu Dhabi Master of Fine Arts Year One exhibition is where applicants to NYU Abu Dhabi’s two-year Master of Fine Arts program showcase their work in progress, after a year of rigorous academic and practical research, as well as material and visual explorations.

Five students will present their pieces at Warehouse421 from May 21, until summer 2022. The exhibition is an initiative of the NYU Abu Dhabi MFA program and is organized by Dirwaza Curatorial Lab.

In addition to the programs and exhibitions, Dirwaza Lab will also launch an original publication in collaboration with Manarat Al Saadiyat, responding to the 90s and the Zemanna exhibition. It will contain a series of original writings, slated for release this month. Interactive Glossary: ​​Summer 2022 is Dirwaza’s summer project which includes an interactive online glossary, where creatives, curators and researchers can submit a word they use or observe in their practices, along with their specific definition to contexts in which they experienced it.

The glossary will be available in Arabic and English as well as the languages ​​spoken by neighboring regions and their diasporas in the Gulf.

Al Sayegh is an independent curator and cultural promoter based in Abu Dhabi. Actively pursuing local incubation, she founded Dirwaza Curatorial Lab, Abu Dhabi’s first curatorial incubator and project partner.

She is also co-founder of Engage101, a collection and research platform. She is a published author and a prominent voice in the region, discussing the importance of non-institutional thinking in building bottom-up regional arts movements.

Among her contributions, she dates back to NYU Abu Dhabi’s FIND project (2012) and currently sits on the advisory board of the university’s NYUAD Art Gallery. She is also a member of the Visual Arts Committee of the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Culture as well as the Management and Curatorial Committee of the Dubai Collection.

She curated and developed the program series for The Creative Act: Performance, Process, Presence at the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi (2017). In parallel, from 2014, she joined and launched curatorial initiatives through Art Dubai, where she curated the Residents section (2019) and launched the Now series, which looked at creative platforms funded by donors. non-governments in the region.

She recently served as Senior Tutor and Curator for Campus Art Dubai. His debut as a solo curator was Bayn: the in-between (2017), the third edition of UAE Unlimited. Later, she organized the Talks in Abu Dhabi Art program.

In 2020, Al Sayegh created The Cup and The Saucer commissioned by Warehouse421 (Sheikha Salama bint Hamdan Foundation), where she also directed internal public programs.

As a creative incubator, Dirwaza builds communities in the Gulf through nonprofit mentorship for multidisciplinary research, archival creation, criticism, and arts programming. A project partner, it advises institutions, decision-makers, collectors and companies, specializes in cultural projects, manages collections, designs exhibitions and offers tailor-made artistic programs.

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