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An interview with Arts Producer, Curator and African Film Researcher, Natalia Palombo

20 June 2015 Interviews News


Natalia Palombo is a freelance arts producer with focus on African contemporary visual art and film, and contemporary British design. She has worked within the field of African contemporary arts for 5 years, most notably with Africa in Motion Film Festival in her role as part of the directorial and managerial team.

We asked Natalia to tell us abit about herself and some of the exciting projects she’s working on.

What do you do?

I am one of the directors of MANY Studios www.manystudios.co.uk and co-founder of The Telfer Gallery www.the-telfer.com. I’m currently consulting on the film programmes for Africa in Motion Film Festival (UK) and co-programming a design-focused annual arts programme at South Block

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What’s your favorite piece of work that you have created?

I recently produced an multi-displinary arts project titled The Power of ZA www.thepowerofza.com, which was part of Connect ZA and World Design Capital Cape Town 2014. In May 2014, I travelled to South Africa with Glasgow-based design studio, Pidgin Perfect, to produce a festival of film, storytelling and design. Through a programme of film screenings, workshops and public discussions, we engaged with over 25 creative practitioners working across film, performing arts, visual art and architecture & city-making, to consider the role that film and design-thinking has in interdisciplinary practice in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

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“My highlights from this body of research are the videos of the performances and interview with Khanyisile Mbongwa

What project are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on a two-part curatorial residency between Glasgow and Johannesburg called Curating Conversations www.nataliapalombo.co.uk/curating-conversations a collaboration with artist/curator Lavendhri Arumugam (Johannesburg).  Curating Conversations is an interdisciplinary arts project which creates a dedicated space for critical and convivial conversations to occur in Johannesburg and Glasgow.

Curating Conversations will utilise interesting public spaces to explore access to the arts within the city context. Through these events, we will challenge accessibility to traditional art forms, the perception of art forms and the expectation to produce work in English. From the documentation of the public events, we will create a book.

Any reason for the publication?

We are interested in the book format as an object traditionally used to authenticate and document histories. This is pertinent to our study of language within South African arts as it will act as a tool to archive work in non-English vernaculars. The book format is also relevant to this research in its inherent elitism. Literature has been a traditionally middle-class medium. In the same way as our public events will serve to challenge accessibility to the arts, the book, as documentation, will challenge the idea of elitism within the arts.

What are your goals for the future, both work wise and life?

I’m on my mission to sustain a research and curatorial-driven arts practice. Any ideas? My life is one long endeavour to remain focused on my research interests, while trying to pay my rent simultaneously.

On a more serious note, once I have documented Curating Conversations, I will be focusing on MANY Studios, an organisation that I run with my colleagues Marc Cairns, Becca Thomas and Dele Adeyemo. MANY is a creative social enterprise that provides studios spaces and other professional opportunities to creative practitioners in Glasgow. I am currently developing an annual arts programme for our new creative project space which will host exhibitions, international collaborations, discussions, seminars and live art events.  As you can see, I have no personal life ambitions!

What do you do when you’re not creating?

I come from a long-line of eccentric Italians, a very close family that demands much of my free time, and my not-at-all-free time. My family live outside Glasgow, on the beautiful west coast of Scotland and often on weekends I will travel out there and spend weekends cooking for my brothers, baking cakes, stealing the car for rare country drives, and taking pretty scenic instagram pics. Living the quiet life – which is in stark contrast to my work life. My work life looks a lot like my personal life, in so much that my hobbies are angled towards the arts, and my friends are a constant source of creative inspiration for me.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I’m a pretty accomplished salsa dancer… At art school, when my friends headed to the union for a mad night of debauchery, I went out dancing with some super talented Cuban maestros. Every night. I taught a Cuban Salsa, Bachata, Merengue and Reggaeton dance class at University of Glasgow for Water Aid for a couple of years. If you need a teacher for your hen night…

Do you have any favorite blogs you read?

I read Africa is a Country religiously – their contributors are fantastic researchers and writers. I also refer to africandigitalart.com and okayafrica.com often, as well as contemporaryand.com. They are great platforms for contemporary African art forms, which are arguably missing from a lot of mainstream creative blogs.

For African cinema, one of my go to blogs is blogs.indiewire.com/shadowandact. I’m also a big fan of Teddy Goitem’s project, Stocktown, a curated video magazine.

What inspires your work?

I’m inspired by the places I go, the people I meet and the films I see. My work has been focused on connecting art work and space in a way that challenges access and expectations of creative practice. I’ve also been interested in context, so I often deal with existing work and re-contextualise and reconnect it to other work. As my methodology is driven by listening to stories, considering the space in which they live, the space in which they could live, and their potential audiences, my inspiration comes from people and places all over the world.


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