Meet the tutor: Bibi Fadlalla

Wed 23 Mar

Bibi Fadlalla is an independent filmmaker, artist and journalist based in the Netherlands. She has a Masters degree in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam and graduated from the Documentary Media Studies Program at the New School in New York. In her work, Bibi explores themes surrounding (African) diasporic identity, migration and belonging. In 2012 she debuted with her documentary Black Pete & I, followed by That Hair (2016), Kendis (2017) & Father Figure (2019). Her films have screened at international film festivals such as IDFA, Sheffield Doc Fest, DC Shorts Fest, TIFF & Cinedoc Tbilisi. Bibi's latest film The Women of my Land (2020), in which she portrays artist Raquel van Haver, was nominated for the Dutch Golden Calf Award for Best Documentary Short 2021. Bibi combines narrative storytelling with a strong cinematic language, inspired by music, animation and African spiritual traditions. She strives to bring stories from underrepresented communities to a larger audience. At WdKA, she is teaching Cultural Diversity to third and fourth year students at the social practices department since September 2021. We would like to introduce Bibi to you through the following interview, in which she tells more about her work, sources of inspiration and goals. 

Can you tell us more about a recent project?

“My last project was a film about the life and work of artist Raquel van Haver. This project was really interesting because I didn’t want to do a traditional documentary portrayal of the artist, but was searching for a way to translate the artists’ world into a visual language. Raquel van Haver makes huge paintings in which she portrays groups of people from different parts of the world. She brings them all together in one painting. This led me to the idea of continuously switching locations as a way of building scenes in an intuitive way. So we travel back and forth with the artist to different locations in Colombia and Amsterdam. And in all these different locations the camera captures the people and the visual elements that catch Raquel’s eye; that inspire her and gradually find their way in her paintings. So as a viewer, you become part of her artistic proces. The studio where she creates most of her work, became a reflection of Raquel’s inner world in the film. The place where she expresses everything that she feels and sees.”

What is your branch of knowledge and subject?

“Documentary filmmaking is my true love. Although I find myself using more and more fictional filmmaking techniques to convey certain feelings. I am a big fan of creating ‘feeling images’ and always try to create a visceral quality in my films. I am currently teaching Cultural Diversity at Social Practices. Since I have a background in Media Studies, I am very much influenced by theory of people like Bell Hooks, Stuart Hall, Judith Butler, Edward Said, Gloria Wekker etc. I am all about decolonizing and queering the curriculum!”


What is your source of inspiration?

“My parents who were brave enough to leave their home countries and come to this place where they worked hard to make a life for us. They succeeded in that. Also, my grandmother Fatma, who is the most independent Sudanese woman I know.”

What defines you as a tutor?

“I love working with students, because they are very open to experimenting with different mediums. That inspires me. I try to create a setting where we can communicate as peers. And encourage them to follow their intuition. I enjoy giving students examples by older generations that continue to make work that is still very relevant to this present day. People like Arthur Jafa, Lorraine O’ Grady and Marlon Riggs. They paved the way for us. We often think that we have to invent things all over again, but so many good stuff has already been done. Why not continue to build on that?”

What is your goal as a tutor?

“I hope to be able to inspire students that generally feel they aren’t represented in the art world, or in society in general. To empower them so they feel they also belong.”

Name one item from your bucket list?

“There’s no bucket list. I can honestly say that If I die tomorrow I would have experienced everything I dreamed of in this life. And more.”

Whom would you call a true innovator?

“Frank Ocean, Tina Campt, Lorraine O' Grady, Terence Nance, Kanye West, Julie Dash.”