The Elements — Jaou Tunis


Launched in 2013, this concept created by Lina Lazaar, the Foundation’s Vice-President and a specialist in contemporary Arab art, gathers artists, art collectors, gallery owners, academics, art specialists, among others, around exhibitions, conferences and seminars on culture and contemporary art. On the occasion of Jaou, many art galleries joined the event and organized original exhibitions of contemporary art. In its third edition in 2015, Jaou was marked by an original exhibition: All the World’s Mosque, organized by KLF in Carthage.

Jaou endeavours to further the cause of life expression in the MENA region, through art. A moving platform, designed as a cultural caravan, Jaou Tunis unites a cross section of the community’s most passionate stakeholders, over a four-day celebration.

Now in its fifth year, Jaou brought together artists, independent curators, and cultural thinkers, to explore the complex definition of heritage in Tunisia’s post-revolution existence. Through a deliberate process of reductionism, Jaou explored the idea of ‘approved heritage,’ through the prism of the four elements; Earth, Fire, Wind and Water. This simplification formed the lens through which Jaou will investigate the complex landscape of Tunisia’s fragile present day condition, and in particular, its cultural narrative. Notwithstanding the politicisation of Tunisia’s heritage - entirely inconsistent with how Tunisian’s actually view themselves - Jaou posed a simple question; to whom does heritage belong?

This edition of Jaou engaged a carefully selected group of forgotten public spaces, through an artistic pilgrimage of decay. Attendees were welcomed to a series of discussions, gallery viewings, as well as the opening of four, unique, contemporary art exhibitions; Water, Earth, Fire and Air. The exhibitions were lead by four fresh Tunisian curators, each inspiring participants to partake in a cultural assessment of their own.

About The Curators:

Curator Pavilion FIRE:

Amel Ben Attia

Amel Ben Attia is a visual artist. She holds a degree from the university of Fine Arts of Tunis and studied visual arts in Nabeul. Her practice ranges from painting to video and she has most recently been exploring sculpture and installation. She is making her curatorial debut at Jaou Tunis with her exhibition based on the element of Fire. Her approach, she says, was inspired by an interview with Marguerite Yourcenar who, upon being asked what he would take with him if his house burned down, responded with a quote from Jean Cocteau: “I would take the fire”. It is this sentence that served as Amel Ben Attia’s starting point for her project. For Jaou Tunis 2018 she is exploring the ambivalence of the fire element and thus chose to look at it from each artist’s particular vantage point.

Curator Pavilion WATER: Myriam Ben Salah

Myriam Ben Salah grew up in Tunis before moving to Paris to study literature followed by business school. In parallel she pursued a theatre degree at the Sorbonne and completed her university degree with a major in Media, Art and Production at HEC. She eventually left the theatre world, which she found somewhat restrictive, in favour of the dynamic contemporary art field. In an autodidactic fashion she gathered the tools of the trade by hanging exhibitions, visiting art fairs and conducting studio visits. Her path eventually lead her to organising solo exhibitions while also writing for publications including Art Press, Artforum, KALEIDOSCOPE and Mousse. For her pavilion at Jaou Tunis 2018, Myriam is exploring the importance of the Mediterranean Sea, the strength of the Mediterranean identity and the region’s youth through the lens of the element of water.

Curator Pavilion AIR:

Aziza Harmel

Aziza Harmel grew up in Tunis where she studied arts and craftsmanship in Denden before moving to the Netherlands to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design at the Royal Academy of Arts of Amsterdam followed by a master’s degree in Fine Arts from the prestigious Dutch Art Institute where she discovered her interest in curatorial work. She has been focusing part of her research-based practice on Tunisia. She is bringing her practice to Jaou Tunis 2018 by way of associating the element of air with the invisible to question visibility itself, be it in the field of art or elsewhere. Inspired by visits to numerous abandoned spaces she is particularly interested in their appropriation.

Curator Pavilion EARTH: Khadija Hamdi-Soussi

Khadija Hamdi Soussi has always been immersed in art. She has in the past worked at the Arab World Institute in Paris and conducted several internships in galleries and auction houses including Sotheby’s and Tajan as part of her master studies for which she researched the art market at EAC Paris. She then pursued a PhD in Islamic art at the Sorbonne. For Jaou Tunis 2018, Khadija is taking the element of earth as the subject of an imaginary museum showcasing artists who are interested in heritage and the concept of museums.

Curator of Jaou Tunis: Lina Lazaar

An expert of contemporary art and a curator, Lina Lazaar also serves as the Vice President of the Kamel Lazaar Foundation. She previously worked as a director at Sotheby’s in London for 10 years and contributed to the birth of an art market in the Arab world while organising over ten major exhibitions devoted to contemporary art in the MENA region. In 2017 she was entrusted with the representation of Tunisia at the Venice Biennale. For Jaou Tunis 2018 Lina resumes her role as artistic director of this annual contemporary art gathering.