Interview: Dorothee Karekezi
Luca Curci talks with Dorothee Karekezi during the MIXING IDENTITIES of CANVAS INTERNATIONAL ART FAIR 2023, at Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello.
Dorothée Karekezi is an artist born and raised in Brussels. Multifaceted challenge addict, she has lived in Romania, Portugal and the Netherlands where she’s currently based. She’s constantly using her multicultural background to build her craft and considers herself to be a chameleon when it comes to acting, always eager to learn more and better. She’s passionate about storytelling, character development, and improv, and writes poems. In addition to her dedication to performing arts, Dorothée is a certified athletics coach, and a swimmer medalist and has danced for more than 10 years in Belgium and the Netherlands.
Luca Curci – Which subject are you working on?
Dorothee Karekezi – I am currently working with ZID Theater in Amsterdam. I joined the crew in November 2022 taking part in the second generation of the FATE project (Future Academy on Tour in Europe). We are a group of actors, musicians and singers with diverse migration backgrounds and we are preparing a play about diasporas, dreams and loss. I am also writing poems about topics such as grief, love and belonging. I prefer to perform with other artists on stage though, as I thrive in artistic collaboration more than alone. Recently, I have been performing one of my poems on stage with a musician named Ciwan Aydin and it was a wonderful experience.
LC – How did you get to your current artistic practice?
DK – My professional career took a new turn when, in April 2022, I wrote, filmed and produced my first short movie about my experience as a “biracial” woman. I have an educational background in media, marketing and journalism, but I never considered an artistic career for many reasons. The more I questioned my identity and its construction, the more the artistic path seemed like an obvious choice. I’ve always been kind of an entertainer when I was a child, but I feel that this part of me was shut down at some point. At the moment, I consider myself as an aspiring artist. To be able to express my individuality in different forms and languages is truly fascinating. And the best part is to resonate with other human beings, sometimes complete strangers, on a deep level and through art.
LC – What do you think about art on social media? Are they turning into the new showcases of contemporary art?
DK – I am not familiar with the contemporary art world. However, I think that any content that is shared on social media is, to some extent, performative. Now people can see that phenomenon as negative or positive, with many nuances in between. With some exceptions, I have the feeling that what counts on social media is not so much the information you post, but more how you post it. And going “viral” is a huge part of it. Digital aestheticism is a core constituent of social media success; and algorithms too. This switch from informative to performative media is for example obvious with concepts such as greenwashing or performative activism. Social media can create awesome opportunities to expose your work and share your ideas and vision. They can be an incredible source of education and interaction as well. In the end, it’s up to you to get the best of those platforms, ground your communications into meaningful actions, and find an original and authentic way to engage with your audience.
LC – What is the most challenging part about creating your artworks?
DK – To remain relevant. Art is meaningless if nobody understands it except you. I believe art should be accessible and inclusive, not the precious mastery of an elite. Another challenge that I think many artists face is simply finding the time and energy to create. Most have odd side jobs to pay the bills and survive. There are only a couple of privileged people out there who have a support system which financially allows them to focus fully on their art. The life of artists is way less glamorous than what mainstream media tends to portray.
LC – Are your artworks focused on a specific theme?
DK – Presently, I am focusing on the background work: find my style, find my place and build my craft. Therefore, I am experimenting with things centring myself: my own life experience as a woman of color, my identity, my roots, my emotions, the values I defend… Feminism and sorority might be the predominant themes of my work right now. The duality of things is also one of the topics present in my artwork: the intelligence and the grotesque, the strength and the fragility, the sensitive and apologetic… Later on, I’d like to de-center myself a bit and be able to embrace other’s perspectives or play characters totally different from me. As artists, especially performing artists, we often need to embody others’ reality using our own style. That’s the true challenge: being in someone else’s shoes but staying true to yourself. The topics I am interested in are constantly evolving and I try not to limit myself in terms of inspiration.
LC – What do you think about the concept of this exhibition? How did it inspire you?
DK – I always enjoy meeting new artists and being introduced to their work. I think the greatest opportunity of these exhibitions is to expand your network and to show your art to an audience that you maybe wouldn’t normally connect with.
LC – Can you explain something about the artworks you have in our exhibition?
DK – The artwork I presented is a film poem. It is the starting point of a highly intimate reflection of me as a “biracial” woman. The short film is a sort of hybrid “poetic visual essay” that questions the idealization of “multiracial” individuals and addresses themes such as fetishism, the search for identity and loneliness, as part of a liberating creative approach in search of meaning. I think that everyone could identify with some of the themes addressed in the film somehow. I made it initially in French, my native language, as an experimental self-portrait written in the form of a poem in quatrains. The film straddles documentary and autofiction. Agnès Varda’s intimate documentary style was one of my inspirations. Without ever limiting myself to this genre, I wanted to explore my vulnerability while questioning my identity as a “mixed-race” woman. In my communications, I try to use the terms “bi-racial”, “mixed-race” or “multiracial” in quotation marks because those terms have a deep colonialist history. They are outdated terms, but I haven’t found an alternative to accurately define myself yet, so I still use them. Their use and spelling slightly differ according to which language you use, but the linguistic roots of most of them can be traced back to the discriminatory invention that was the conception of “race”, a human-invented social construction. This categorization of people became a justification for European colonization and subsequent enslavement of people from Africa. Thus, these terms have heavy meaning, and it’s important to realise that and use them carefully.
LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
DK – It was an interesting experience to meet with the group and a great opportunity to be part of such an event. I would have never imagined, about a year ago, that my experimental video would be screened in a palace in Venice amongst other art pieces.
LC – Do you think ITSLIQUID GROUP can represent an opportunity for artists?
DK – I think ITSLIQUID GROUP should definitely continue to include a more diverse panel of artists. Contemporary art, and art in general, is still a very exclusive, upper-class world. By allowing artists
from diverse horizons and origins, the exhibitions can only be richer. I am glad I was given the opportunity to be part of that event.
LC – What is your idea about ITSLIQUID GROUP?
DK – A vast worldwide platform that allows artists from extensive art fields to express themselves and show their work on diversified platforms.