XX: Tell us about yourself! Who is Johanna Nahous?
JOHANNA NAHOUS: I’m 24 years old, and was born and raised in Trinidad. In 2012, I began my Undergraduate degree in the U.K., and since then I have lived, studied and gained experience in England, Trinidad, Barcelona and Berlin.
XX: So, what exactly is Grundlos Kollektiv?
JN: Grundlos Kollektiv in its physical form is creative space, currently managed by Culturego, located on Cipriani Boulevard in Port of Spain.
It provides a home for a plethora of events: film screenings, artists talks, exhibitions, theatre, pop up shops, conferences, physical and educational workshops, cultural and political talks, brand launches, stand-up comedy, slam poetry, photoshoots, and anything else imaginable. It is also a space for more corporate events, social gatherings, or simply a meeting/workspace.
In its non-physical form, it is a platform locally-based that supports and connects individuals and provides new or alternative opportunities.
XX: It’s an odd name… what does it mean?
JN: Grundlos directly translated from german means groundless or baseless, physically or theoretically. The concept is that creativity is limitless and cannot be constrained, with endless possibilities to transcend and develop.
The Kollektiv strives to challenge the inhibiting borders between cultures, countries, and people and expand accessibility to each other, thus having not one home but many.
XX: Why did you create this space?
JN: As our culture develops and the creative and business sectors continue upon non-traditional routes, there is a demand for alternative spaces to execute this. As a result of this natural progression, you will also find more often collaborations and building as a community, which Grundlos Kollektiv supports and encourages.
Traditional spaces often limit or don’t facilitate this. A comfortable and inviting atmosphere, achieved through minimalism, was created in order to aid this communication. The space is able to attract those from various professions in order to aid innovation and movement.
It was important to build a space that was not only minimalistic but equipped, thus easily adaptable to whatever it is needed or wanted for. The goal was to provide a space where what happens in it is not defined by the space itself. It is neither a bar, a theatre, a workspace, a gallery, a classroom, a studio, a cinema, a restaurant, or a conference room, but it can become all.
Because it is not constrained to one, the space itself is an act of protest against the box us Trinibagonians have put ourselves in.
XX: What are your thoughts on the art scene in T&T?
JN: I don’t know everything on arts and culture, and I will never pretend to – and considering my age, I have a lot still to see, read, and learn.
We have an interesting, diverse and unique culture, and from that comes talented, interesting, diverse, and unique creativity. Unfortunately, there are and have been scarce platforms for this.
There has been so much infatuation with the Western world, that we have totally overlooked, undermined, and underinvested in ourselves for far too long. An attitude that carried us through to the recession we face today. However, the financial situation forces us to take a new approach, look within ourselves and become resourceful. As a result of this, I think the creatives are becoming much more innovative, collaborative, extremely expressive, and daring with it all.
But even more, I see other industries outside of the traditional arts understanding the importance of this creativity to move forward, whether it be in industrial design, architecture, marketing and business branding, food, or education. The ‘art scene’ is becoming much more than a nook in the corner.
XX: Grundlos is kind of different for T&T… Did you face any roadblocks? Did anyone just not “get” why you were doing it?
JN: There were endless open-ended, rhetorical, even sometimes aggressive questions that instilled fear of the introduction of ‘new’. Of course, a space like this is not conceptually new in the world, nor is it the only creative space existing in Trinidad and Tobago.
However, there’s definitely not an abundance of them among our islands, and not one space offers the same – each unique in their own way with design, audience, and atmosphere. But the concept is still relatively novel to most people in our country and unfortunately, not valued for what they can provide.
XX: But you tuned it out…
JN: The discouragement was wearing, but the presence of mentors and like-minded people offered invaluable support. However, there were times the questions and opinions were in abundance and moulded a reality where a creative concept does not exist.
My rational became abstract to even myself and in these times it was the most difficult, but extremely important, to continue to stay motivated in doubt and to focus self-validation rather than to seek it externally.
I experienced from a new angle this ‘box’ I say we put ourselves in. We have created a society where nothing new can be fully accepted and supported because us Trinibagonians “have our ways and we like it like that”.
Maybe that’s a product of a post-colonial society. We have a fear for freedom of thought and action because we have been taught we cannot be free, and this has been passed through generations and infiltrated our system of social function, culture, and politics on several levels. But we’ll only hinder ourselves if we’re not open to a change in thought.
My answer to the questions now is “How should we know what we like and don’t like, if we don’t give ourselves the option to know anything else [and then decide]?”
XX: So what’s next for Grundlos?
JN: There are several plans in action for the upcoming year. Not to go into extensive detail, but the direction the Kollektiv will be expansion in two parts: the first is to reach a larger audience and increase accessibility and diversity of creativity in the space, and also create a daily and functional usage of the space rather than only event bookings.
Second, which is my major focus for 2019, is education. [We need to] discuss how to move forward from where we are now in the most functional way.
It’s important to continue to speak about what does not want to be spoken
It’s important to continue to speak about what does not want to be spoken, especially understanding the importance of the female role in society and the exceedingly high inequality, devaluation, sexualization, and objectification of women still occurring in Trinidad and Tobago.
Beyond that, the current economic state is a national crisis and we should be approaching this not just from a financial perspective, but an all-encompassing one. Grundlos Kollektiv will be concentrating on the importance of investing back into local products and producers from a multitude of industries, like arts & music, agriculture, medical, cosmetic, etc., and the positive socio-economic impacts it has on each industry and as a result, Trinidad & Tobago as a whole.
XX: Sounds amazing! And what’s next for Johanna?
JN: There is a forever growing list of inspirations and goals, but for now my focus is on completing what’s next for Grundlos.
For all the happenings in the space, follow the Kollektiv on Facebook and Instagram @grundloskollektiv, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for any queries. The space is proudly affordable, and bookings can be made through the Culturego website.