Art Practice in Challenging Environments


Wednesday, 8th June 2022  |  18:30 - 20:00




In Kalila wa Dimna: Ancient Tales for Troubled Times, the long travelling famous fables of Kalila wa Dimna, which have been translated into more than 40 languages, are brought to life in an exhibition that addresses some of the important social, cultural, and political issues of our time. Amidst global social and political instability and natural calamities, art for art’s sake is no longer enough for many socially engaged artists, especially those living or working in challenging environments.


Yet, even amidst the hatred and the carnage, life is still worth living. It is possible for wonderful encounters and beautiful things to exist. - Hayao Miyazaki


In this online talk artists Dima Nachawi, Ali J. Dalloul, DemaOne and Alyson Frazier, the founder of Play for Progress, a Croydon based charity, discuss collaborative art practices in challenging environments.


Dima and Ali discuss the challenges and interruptions affecting the creative workflow while living in unstable areas, and the necessity of addressing social and political issues as forms of resistance, archiving and continuity. They reflect on the challenges of setting priorities in their art practice in unstable contexts, especially when bringing their work to international audiences. They also discuss art as a mean of survival and as the gateway to another life, elsewhere…


Alyson, musician and founder of Play for Progress, will discuss the approach taken by Play for Progress in their art and music classes for young asylum seekers, which are therapeutically underpinned and encourage open engagement. Alyson will also share the challenges faced by the organization and the young people with whom they work to thrive in unstable conditions under a harsh asylum system.


The artists will also reflect on how global issues like the pandemic have brought to light ever more clearly humanity’s destructive impact on society and natural ecosystems.


Join the artists for an open conversation that asks what it means to ‘do art’ and to collaborate in a challenging and often unjust world.


The talk will be chaired by curators Rania Mneimneh and Ghazaleh Zogheib.



Speaker and chair biographies


Ali J. Dalloul is a Lebanese editor, filmmaker and video essayist. He holds a Master of Arts in “Editing and Postproduction” from the London South Bank University. His personal work consists of collecting and editing audio-visual elements to address socio political subjects. The output challenges copyrighted material and is mostly showcased on the internet as a public space.


Dima Nachawi is an artist, clown, and visual storyteller, who collects and reflects tales from Syria. She focuses on documenting tales of ordinary Syrians, their life under conflict and their relationships with their cities which are an integral part of shaping the Syrian collective memory. She is also keen on using her illustrations to advocate for Women’s Rights and their fight against patriarchal structures. Dima is also a clown performer with “Clown Me In”, a clown theater company based in Beirut. It uses clowning to spread laughter and provide relief to disadvantaged communities across Lebanon. In 2018, she was listed among the “BBC 100 Women'', a list that highlights some of the most inspiring and influential women from around the world. Her artworks were featured in exhibitions in Beirut, Brussels, Paris, and London. Dima holds a master’s in art and Cultural Management from King’s College - London University and a B.A in Sociology from Damascus University.


DemaOne is a Belgian-Moroccan visual artist born and raised in Brussels, he started his exploration of art and identity thirty years ago. His work ranges from ink on paper calligraphy, to 30ft tall murals. He holds exhibitions and workshops internationally but spends most of his time organising events and activities for children and teenagers in his hometown of Brussels. Dema has always felt in between, at the crossroads of various identities and simply refused to choose a side. Each one of his pieces sits at the intersection of calligraphy, graffiti, poetry and language, diverging paths that all lead to personal and cultural growth. Dema not only embraces his intersectionality, he sees it, in all its complexity, as his truest self.


Play for Progress is a Croydon-based charity that delivers therapeutic and educational music and arts programmes, advocacy, and well-being support for unaccompanied young people seeking asylum in the UK. The organisation harnesses the power of community engagement in the arts and creative therapies to build healthy foundations for resilient relationships that support and amplify the voices of young people.


Rania Mneimneh is a curator, designer and social science researcher with an MA in History of Arts and Architecture from SOAS and an MSc in International Social and Public Policy from LSE, London. Her research focuses on forced displacement, migration, diversity, and social engagement through artistic practice. She curated Tints of Resilience exhibition (P21 Gallery, London, 2018), which explored artistic practice around forced migration and was funded by AFAC, The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture. Rania is currently head of Research and Advocacy at Croydon based charity, Play for Progress (UK). She is based between Singapore, Beirut and London.


Ghazaleh Zogheib is a curator, researcher and language teacher. She has an MA from King’s College London and a master’s degree in Literature from La Sorbonne. Her research focuses on the relationship between art, learning and the development of inclusive art spaces. She curated Rayan Elnayal’s Imagining Afrabia for the AWAN festival 2020 and Dema One’s Resilience Exile Mutation at the P21 Gallery, 2019 alongside panel discussions and workshops. Parallel to her work in the arts, Zalia has worked on peacebuilding programmes in conflict zonesDetails for how to attend the talk online via Zoom will be sent upon booking.