Alserkal Arts Foundation awards inaugural research grants to innovative, emerging multi-disciplinary practitioners

21 September 2020

The grants were announced in 2019 as part of the establishment of the Alserkal Arts Foundation, which was founded by the Alserkal family to support socially engaged practices, and facilitate cross-cultural exchange


Manar Moursi, Stairway to Heaven (freeze frame), 2019. HD video installation, 29:57 mins. Photo by Yuula Benivolski. This video is part of an ongoing research project by Moursi that will culminate in a forthcoming publication co-produced by Alserkal.

21 September 2020

The grants were announced in 2019 as part of the establishment of the Alserkal Arts Foundation, which was founded by the Alserkal family to support socially engaged practices, and facilitate cross-cultural exchange

Alserkal Arts Foundation has awarded its inaugural research grants to practitioners breaking new ground in their innovative approaches to transnational film histories, contemporary architecture and urbanism, and indigenous knowledges and local ecologies in the context of Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA).

The recipients, Léa Morin, Manar Moursi, and Shahana Rajani and Jeanne Penjan Lassus were shortlisted from over 200 applications, and further vetted by the Alserkal family and Alserkal team alongside a panel of artists, researchers, and academics from the Alserkal network, including: Alserkal Arts Foundation Curatorial Advisor Nada Raza, artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Alserkal Arts Foundation, Alserkal Residency Selection Committee members Raja’a Khalid and Uzma Rizvi, and researcher and curator Kristine Khouri.

Awarded for a two-year period, with support of up to $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for collaborative projects, the grants are designed to challenge established research methods and modes of practice. Supporting knowledge production and critical exchange that disrupt and expand the boundaries between disciplines, the grants place an emphasis on alternative frameworks that link the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

Alserkal Founder Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal said: “The Alserkal Arts Foundation has supported socially engaged, multi-disciplinary practices, and facilitated cross-cultural exchange through artist residencies, commissions, and exhibitions. By awarding these inaugural research grants to emerging practitioners, we are furthering our support for researchers embedded in the context of our region, and who are expanding geographic and disciplinary boundaries.”

Supported by the Alserkal family, the research grants represent a core pillar of the Foundation’s mandate.

About the projects

Léa Morin is a curator and independent researcher based in Casablanca, Morocco. Her project, CINIMA 3: Lodz – Casablanca, Some meaningless events to retrace, reframes the history of cinema in the Maghreb, retracing the missing stories of a lost generation of aspiring Moroccan filmmakers, particularly exchanges between Lodz in Poland and Casablanca in the period following Moroccan independence in the 1960s.

Morin says: “This grant is for me a unique opportunity to experiment with new forms and modes of research and writing, to explore the margins of our histories, and to invent new approaches. My research project is a space for critical thought and connection, a sharing of knowledge, and a re-activation of histories that dominant narratives have erased. It’s an opportunity to breathe new life, for the present as well as the future, into a forgotten chapter of history, as the often overlooked artistic, cultural, and political transnational circulations, especially between Poland, Morocco, and the ‘third world’ in the 1960s and 70s.”

Manar Moursi is a multi-disciplinary designer and artist from Cairo, Egypt. The Loudspeaker and the Tower looks at the proliferation of new mosque constructions in Egypt, particularly unusual mixed-use typologies. An architectural study deploying extensive photographic documentation of both ubiquitous and overlooked structures, the project reconsiders minarets as both symbolic and strategic apparatuses.

Moursi says: “The Alserkal Arts Foundation Research Grant comes at a pivotal point in my four-year long research project. It will enable me to transform all the research material collected so far into a consolidated artist book, an affordable art work with its own architecture, editorial perspective, and a wider circulation potential. The book will allow the reader to follow the path of my drives on the outskirts of Cairo around the Ringroad, and roads leading out of the city to the North and South. It will also allow the reader to understand the development of new mosque construction along these axes buttressed with historical, and present-day socio-political, and economic contextual analysis and materials.”

Shahana Rajani and Jeanne Penjan Lassus are artists based in Karachi and Bangkok, respectively. Their project, Embodied Cartographies and Visual Entanglements in the Delta traces practices and transmissions of situated knowledges in the Indus Delta to develop sensorial methods that grapple with climate change, ecological disturbances, and the politics of representation. They focus on coastal communities reckoning with infrastructural development, and the militarisation of the landscape in the delta region of Sindh, Pakistan.

Rajani and Lassus say: “The Alserkal Arts Foundation Research Grant is an amazing, and rare opportunity when it comes to support for research-based practices in the region. We are very thrilled that our project was selected, as this will enable us to conduct our research in the delta, form long-term relationships and solidarities, and rethink our own methods and ways of engaging as visual artists.”

Vilma Jurkute, Alserkal Director added: “The COVID-19 pandemic further cemented how important it is for us to support radical and alternative research practices within the region and beyond. The selected projects contribute to much needed ‘unlearnings’ currently challenging traditional positions, producing new forms of knowledge as a result.”

The Foundation carefully considers the dissemination of its growing archive through future platforms, both online and offline, to ensure the knowledge and research it amasses is available to all publics.


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Editor’s Notes

About Alserkal Arts Foundation
The Alserkal Arts Foundation is a non-profit that extends Alserkal’s mission to support cultural production. The Foundation offers opportunities for research and artistic production to cultural practitioners and researchers with strong regional or contemporary relevance who challenge conventional disciplinary boundaries. Through its initiatives, which include support for artistic projects, research grants, alternative learning, and artist residencies at purpose-built studios located in the heart of Alserkal Avenue, the Foundation seeks to incubate creative thinking that contributes to the region’s cultural sphere, leading to new forms of knowledge. Alserkal Arts Foundation is supported by Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, Ahmad Bin Eisa Alserkal and the Alserkal family.

About Alserkal
Alserkal is a socially responsible and forward-thinking cultural enterprise dedicated to developing sustainable models for homegrown initiatives and to supporting narratives and research emerging from the Global South. Founded in 2007 by Emirati businessman and patron Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, Alserkal is renowned for its ground-breaking artistic productions, experimental approach and for the creation of culturally meaningful spaces that inspire and shape communities. Alserkal has three primary areas of activity: cultivating a creative economy in Dubai and building a collaborative network of civic cultural institutions through its renowned cultural district, Alserkal Avenue; providing advisory services to public and private sector entities; and, supporting public artist commissions, residencies, research grants and educational programmes through its non-profit, Alserkal Arts Foundation.

Alserkal has transformed the cultural landscape of Dubai and the UAE through the creation of a thriving, region-specific community of over 70 contemporary art galleries, visual and performing arts organisations, designers and entrepreneur-led businesses at Alserkal Avenue, providing an essential platform for the development of creative industries in the region.

Alserkal utilizes its collective expertise in arts initiatives and cultural production, heritage creation, community building and engagement, as well as urbanism and planning for creative industries, to guide public and private sector entities in developing sustainable and responsive business models.

About Alserkal Avenue
Alserkal Avenue is a vibrant cultural district in the Al Quoz industrial area of Dubai, and is home to a community of over 70 contemporary art galleries, visual and performing arts organisations, designers, home-grown and entrepreneur-led businesses, and community spaces across 500,000sqft and 90 warehouses. Alserkal Avenue provides an essential platform for the development of the creative industries in the United Arab Emirates. As one of the region’s foremost destinations for contemporary art, and home to Dubai’s risk-takers, makers and wide-ranging creative communities, Alserkal Avenue provides cultural experiences for local, regional and international audiences through its extensive year-round programming. Alserkal Avenue is home to Concrete, a multi-disciplinary exhibitions space conceptualised and programmed by Alserkal, as well as the artist residency program of Alserkal’s non-profit, Alserkal Arts Foundation. Alserkal Avenue was established in 2007 by Alserkal following the visionary thinking of its founder, Emirati businessman and cultural patron Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, who sought to cultivate a vibrant creative community and support cultural production in Dubai.