29.12.2020   |  Art And About Africa

About Dee Haughney

Dee Haughney is the Curator at October Gallery in London.
Originally from Kilkenny in Ireland, Haughney has always been close to contemporary art from Africa: her mother lived for many years in Zambia, so her link to the continent has always been strong.


Growing up in rural Ireland in a house filled with art and cultural objects from Zambia and its neighbouring countries, Dee first studied Contemporary Photography and then completed her Masters in Curatorial Practice: there she met and studied with the artist Amarachi Okafor, who had been student and assistant of El Anatsui.
Amarachi introduced her to October Gallery whilst she was working at The Photographers’ Gallery, London, and immediately drawn to their mission and energy she applied for a role at the time and she has been working at the October since 2012.

October Gallery booth at 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, New York, 2019. Copyright Brittany Buongiorno

AAAA: Has there been a first experience that brought you closer to the African Continent and his artistic reality?
: “My focus has always been Contemporary Art from Africa and in 2018 I took a sabbatical for nine months to further my knowledge of the continent and its practitioners. I undertook a self-lead research trip cycling the length of the continent from Cairo to Cape Town, with my Architect friend Andrew Warwick. Along the way, we had the fantastic experience of visiting artists’ studios, and important institutions such as the Rashid Diab Arts Centre, Khartoum, Addis Fine Art, Addis Ababa and Circle Arts Agency, Nairobi.”  

AAAA: How challenging do you think being a woman is to the role of a Curator?
Dee: “I think being a female curator in the art sector has as many challenges as being a female in most sectors. Personally, I have noticed that while there seems to be a higher percentage of qualified female curators and arts managers compared to the number of men with these qualifications, higher positions like Directorial and Department Heads, are consistently given to men. In the last couple of years, there has been a renewed effort to change this and to change the stark racial inequalities in the sector but there is a lot more to be done. I am extremely lucky to work for a gallery which has two strong female Directors that have been running October for decades; Chili Hawes and Elisabeth Lalouschek. As a female curator, one of my biggest tasks is to also create an even playing field for female artists.”

Opening of James Barnor and Daniele Tamagni, 2016 at October Gallery, London. Photo copyright Jonathan Greet

Currently, Haughney is working on the year ahead at October Gallery which includes the exhibition Tears that Taste of the Sea by Rachid Koraïchi and Laugh at Gravity by Benji Reid. She’s also working towards the major survey exhibition of Ghanaian photographer James Barnor at The Serpentine, London: she has worked with the artist since 2015 when ‘most of his archive sat in boxes in his London home’, and she says to be proud to have taken part to James’ journey to achieve the recognition ‘he deserves worldwide in his ninetieth year’.

Her next goal, she says, is to try to get a permanent public sculpture by renowned artist Sokari Douglas-Camp placed in London. One of the many issues made starkly clear this year is ‘how astonishingly undiversified public sculpture and commemorations are in the capital’, claims the curator. ‘This needs to change and having a permanent sculpture by Douglas-Camp, originally from Nigeria but living and working in the capital for many years is a necessity’.


Words of Claudia Coppola from the Dee Haughney’s interview.


About Dee Haughney is part of the column “Women” dedicated to the women involved in the art scene on and about the African continent.
The aim of the column is to give space to women – in or connected – to the continent’s art scene. A space in which experiences, opinions and realities can be read and loved by everyone, focused on women and their empowerment.

If you know of any woman that should take part please invite her to get in touch. Thank you, we appreciate your contribution.

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