Art is a conversation. It is about sharing and inspiring a relationship between different people and different cultures. Just like there are political diplomats that represent nations to build political and economic relationships, there can also be cultural or artistic diplomats that build the cultural relationship between countries.
Seeing a piece of art is like walking through the streets of another city or a nation, as the colours, patterns, and illustrations communicate the rich culture and beauty of every street.
Born and raised in Tunisia, Ines Baccouche is a communicator through art. She is like a diplomat; one who acts as a bridge between the artists from North Africa and the Middle East and lovers of art in Europe. Starting out as an engineer in microelectronics, she traveled to France for further studies and worked for more than 10 years as a project manager in the field of microelectronics.
Living in France, she recognized the absence of artists from her region in European art galleries, and the lack of recognition and knowledge of these artists. To bridge this cultural gap, she created ArtforNess – the first European gallery that works exclusively for and with illustrators from North Africa and the Middle East.
“I am not an artist, but I consider myself as a creative person, and a person who is here to allow the artist to shine,” Baccouche tells Egyptian Streets.
“I wanted to work in the cultural sector because there is the artist, and then there are the people around them that help them to shine, and that’s how I see my work. I am more like a facilitator to help sell their artworks and [to help them] be known and shine.”
Created in 2019, ArtforNess holds both offline and online exhibitions to bring illustration art from North Africa, the Middle East and West Asia into the world of France and Europe. It aims to seal the position of these artists in Europe’s art scene, and to foster stronger cultural exchange between the two regions.
“ArtforNess is in constant development because it is nurtured by all of the people that work in it; it is like the sun that shines for them,” Baccouche says. “ArtforNess means art for the people – for anyone and for everybody. It stems from a desire to showcase what we – the people of North Africa and the Middle East – are capable of.”
“There are a lot of galleries, but what I am trying to do is to shorten the distance between the general public and the art, and to bring to the table the richness of our culture.”
Not only did these artworks help shift perceptions of the cultural world in North Africa and the Middle East, but they have also helped inspire a sense of pride and belonging among the Arab diaspora in Europe.
“They — Europeans — didn’t expect us to be able to be so creative, to have full of colours, to make them dream and travel, and to make them see our countries and our culture through our eyes,” she says. “And the diaspora also feel a lot of pride, because they see themselves represented, which is not so common.”
On the future of ArtforNess, Baccouche says that she hopes it continues to “be bold” and build its boldness overtime. “I want us to be bold and true to ourselves, and to bring to the market new kinds of art,” she says.
“You don’t need to know the language of art to understand it; it is all about feelings. Drawing art is the best way to trigger the feelings, and the best way to connect to people from different backgrunds and cultures, as even if we come from different backgrounds, we all still feel the same way.”