For nearly 40 years, the Barbican has been inspiring new audiences to explore the arts, with programmes of activity that aim to develop interests, confidence and careers across the creative sectors.
With areas of specialism ranging from art, design and cinema to music and performance, the organisation has a particular focus on supporting young creatives and emerging artists to grow their skills and build their networks.
In autumn 2020, third-year BA (Hons) Design for Art Direction student Emma Bouraba was invited to take part in the Barbican’s Emerging Film Curators initiative, where she collaborated with colleague Maria Paradinas to screen an exploration of work by the Algerian actress, playwright and director, Rayhana Obermeyer.
Their event focused on Rayhana's 2016 film, À Mon Âge je me Cache Encore Pour Fumer (I Still Hide To Smoke), which highlights the experiences of women living within the fractured society of Algiers during the Civil War (1991 - 2002). Set in a hammam, or public steam bath, audiences are invited to follow the lead masseuse, Fatima, as she navigates a space where societal rules can be explored, discussed, inverted and broken.
Accompanied by a recorded introduction by the director, the screening was also complemented by a panel discussion on themes and contextual frameworks across the film, as well as Emma's digital explorations of the ideologies behind its soundtrack.
We caught up with Emma to discuss her creative interests, her experience of collaborating with Europe’s largest performing arts centre, and highlights from her time at LCC so far.
"Unique perspective on the current contemporary art landscape"
Tell us a little bit about your creative practice.
I’m an emerging art director and film curator. My practice explores the politic of spaces, decolonial discourses, and fictive dystopian worlds.
Why did you decide to study on BA (Hons) Design for Art Direction at LCC?
I chose to study Design for Art Direction because of the unique format of the course, which allows each student to develop their critical thinking and visual language. The notion of collaboration is at its core, which I strongly value.
How did you find out about the opportunity to curate for the Barbican, and why was it a good fit for you?
In 2019, I had the chance to be a Young Barbican Programmer for the Chronic Youth Film Festival. During this one-year project taught by Suzy Gillett, I learned how to program, and I later found out about the call for emerging curators from Suzy.
This opportunity seemed like the next step to get into industry. It was the perfect challenge to be involved with, and enabled me to explore all the dimensions of screening - from managing the budget to hosting the panel discussion. It was structured around a Lab, and offered an incredible opportunity to learn from the Barbican’s team.
I applied to this opportunity with Maria Paradinas, another young programmer and curator. We wanted to work together, so we applied as a collective.
"The multiple ways in which women challenge oppression"
What was your aim for the project?
Our aim was to offer UK audiences access to a movie that's rarely screened in the country, and which also explores a historical time that's largely unknown by a large proportion of people.
We also wanted to celebrate the braving of censorship by the filmmaker, Rayhana Obermeyer, and each of the actresses in the film.
What was your creative process behind the screening?
We hoped to curate an event focusing on marginalised perspectives - specifically women, racialised bodies and queer people. We chose to explore I Still Hide to Smoke because it addresses the historical gap of the Algerian Civil War and raises awareness of women’s narratives.
First, we organised a call with Rayana to create an introduction that could contextualise the screening, because it was crucial for us to share her personal and creative journey with our audience. I also wrote an article, edited by Maria, titled The Sound of Algerian Resistance which was hosted on the Barbican’s website and celebrated the rich legacy of resistance in Algerian music.
We then invited Róisín Tapponi of Habibi Collective and Dr. Anissa Daoudi from the University of Birmingham to discuss the multiple ways in which women challenge oppression during conflict and post-conflict situations.
"A successful collaborative experience"
Did you use any of the skills developed throughout your time on BA (Hons) Design for Art Direction during this opportunity?
Yes, I definitely did. I used curatorial skills gained in my art direction and contextual theoretical studies classes, and especially skills from curatorial practice. which is taught by Dr. Nela Milic. I also used what I’d learned around writing and marketing strategy.
What has been the major highlight of your time at LCC so far?
Last year, we had the chance to curate an exhibition for Flat Time House, a gallery, archive and artist’s residency in South London. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, we were able to organise panel discussions and develop online displays of our audio creations. It was a successful collaborative experience.