PODCAST: Gallery Girl Meets Artmejo

In this episode of the Gallery Girl podcast we chat with Hind Joucka, founder of artmejo and Sama Shahrouri, editor of artmejournal. artmejo is an online platform based in Jordan, that champions art and culture from the Arab world. 

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Artmejo began as a school project in 2014, beginning as a social media platform. “The whole idea came as part of my journalism bachelor’s degree”, explains Hind, “At university we were supposed to do an art and culture course… I chose to focus on the Jordanian art and culture scene. So I started researching and contacting galleries to see what exhibitions they have ongoing…you had to be part of their mailing list… it was difficult to find out if i wasn’t part of this niche group. So I decided to create this website where you can find out all of the events and the activities happening in the art world.” Hind also wanted to shed light on Jordanian artists and have interviews with them. She worked on the platform initially while still working a full time job, but over time it took off and it has now become her job. 

2 Sama & Hind podcast interview
Sama Shahrouri and Hind Joucka

Sama came to the initiative initially as an Instagram follower, and met Hind at an event she was organising called artparkjo. “This new baby was born called art at the park where hind and two of her friends started this initiative where they’d invite artists and art enthusiasts to create and talk about art”, says Sama, “I was one of the artists involved…I contacted Hind and told her I really wanted to start a journal.” and thus, artmejournal was created. “Hind already had a platform and had this idea to have a magazine of some sort online”, she adds, “It was just meant to be.” artmejournal now covers events from across the world, with contributions based everywhere and not only highlights established artists, but also up-and-coming artists and recent grads too, educating readers on what’s currently happening in the art world regionally, as well as on a global level. “We’re trying to use this language and this tone that’s approachable to people from all generations”, adds Hind, “We’re trying to make the content as fun and as informative as possible to make sure many people are engaged.”

3 Break the silence mural 2019
Artmejo’s Break The Silence Mural, 2019

Speaking about the art scene in Amman, the pair acknowledge that it is small, and once you know one person, you know them all. “Working with younger crowds, established galleries and museums in jordan have started seeing us in a different light”, says Sama, “We were given an opportunity to work and collaborate with them.” and, because of their knowledge of the scene, artmejo now gives art tours around Amman through experiences on Airbnb. “For tourists and for people coming to amman, it shows you a completely different perspective of the city”, explains Hind, “You get to discuss topics and share cultural comparisons with each other.” And, taking things further, artmejo now also gives special art tours for kids too. “It gives a new perspective of art to a younger generation”, she adds, “Something they’re not used to in their art classes at school.”

4 With Tamam Al Akhal 2019
Hind Joucka and Sama Shahrouri with artist Tamam Al Akhal

Taking things even further, the platform that began informing locals about events also shares and sells artworks too. “We’d always highlight young up-and-coming artists based in Jordan, I started getting enquiries about whether pieces were for sale”, says Hind, “I realised there was some demand. From that we started profiles to let people know more about the artists, the artworks, their journeys and give the artists a place to shine.”

5 Kids tours 2019 (2)
One of artmejo’s kids tours

And, given that I recorded this interview while I was in quarantine, I had to ask Hind and Sama how it affected them in Amman. Artmejo reacted to the lockdown by creating online workshops with artists from their database called “art in quarantine”, where each artist gave free 1 hour workshops on Instagram live. “Having that level of engagement in real time and creating work at the same time… it was closing the gap with the artist and the audience and making them a lot more approachable”, says Hind. “Since people didn’t have required supplies we’d also post substitutes for required materials”, adds Sama, “For instance, if you didn’t have glue you could use starch and water or make your own grid paper. It really showed you how art can really bring people together.”

And what about the future? “We’re trying to make content as bilingual as possible”, says Hind, “So much needs to be documented in Arabic because you’ll be reaching a wider audience. We’re trying to speak to all backgrounds, both Arabic and English speakers.” Thus, artmejo is creating more videos too. “We hope to become a very important resource for what’s happening right now”, adds Sama, “We do talk about what these events mean to the current global situation.” “We want it to be the one-stop for everything to do with arts and culture”, says Hind, “As an archive and an educational platform as well. For young children to teach their younger children, for school teachers, for other artists to learn about artists. This wholesome, this very cohesive platform where you can get everything that’s happening in the art world in one place.”

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier is a London-based writer and curator. She is the founder of Gallery Girl - a London-based curatorial platform and website dedicated to modern and contemporary art from across the globe. Her work is primarily focused on supporting emerging female artists from the Middle East and the Caucasus. She has written for Canvas Magazine, Harper's Bazaar Arabia, Ibraaz, Jdeed Magazine, Suitcase and Vice Arabia among other publications. Her exhibitions in London and Armenia have been featured in Vogue Arabia, The Art Newspaper, The Art Gorgeous and numerous other news outlets. Gallery Girl has also spoken in the UK, UAE and Belgium about the contemporary art scene in the MENA region, and is planning further events in London and Amman.

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