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Cluster of Excellence EXC 2052 - "Africa Multiple: reconfiguring African Studies"

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Interview with Artist Fellow Btihal Remli: “Fellowship is an exciting opportunity”


Btihal Remli – the Cluster of Excellence’s artist fellow – has been staying in Bayreuth since February 2021 having to cope with the challenges imposed by COVID-19 restrictions. Now, at the end of her fellowship she enjoys the exchange facilitated by the lifting of the restrictions and organizes an event as final activity of her stay.

Btihal, you are one of two artist fellows the Cluster of Excellence is hosting - do tell us a little bit about your work.

As a photographer and visual storyteller, I have always been intrigued by the hidden forces that shape cultural practices and influence social behaviors. Driven by a need to understand the reasons that fuel these hidden forces, my work is dedicated to capturing stories that center around belief, superstition and reality.

When and how did you find out that art was your vocation?

Actually I have studied architecture at the academy of fine arts in Vienna, where I have worked on my first photographic project on islamic ritual acts, in which I explored new approaches to depict prayer practices, which take place in public space. Later on I have exhibited that work as well, but haven’t necessarily thought about being an artist until a curator wrote a review about that exhibition, stating me as an artist.

What was your motivation to apply for the fellowship at the Cluster of Excellence?

A friend has sent me the Open Call and I was already intrigued. I thought that the fellowship could be an exciting opportunity to not only produce work, but also to learn and deepen my knowledge through exchange with advisors and other fellows.

Which projects are you currently working on?

During my stay I have been focusing on my project „the migration of djinn“, which is dealing with the belief in djinn among Maghreb-Muslim communities in Europe. Through Photography and Text I am trying to scrutinize the migration of djinn culture and the role of oral narration in keeping cultural beliefs and practices alive.

Now that your fellowship is coming to an end soon: what do you think about your time that you spent as part of the Cluster?

Well, the pandemic did affect my time at the cluster a lot. I could only meet my hosts and other fellows through zoom conferences, which has been enriching, but also sad, since I couldn’t meet the people in person. But the more it comes to an end, the more I get the chance to meet everyone and establish real relationships, which are hopefully also the beginning of new collaborations.

Do you already know where your next projects will lead you?

After my time in Bayreuth I will move to Brussels, where I will continue researching on my project „the migration of djinn“ in a post-graduate program called A.Pass.

Btihal Remli is a visual storyteller focused on art and documentary photography. She completed a Master Degree in Architecture from the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, Austria. Her master thesis for graduation was a photography book about the cultural spaces in Morocco within the context of Spacial Theory in order to depict how a structural space can emerge out of a ritual, and how the ritual can transform a public space into a private one.

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