Layla Zami is an innovative academic and artist working with words, music, performance, and video. Born in Paris in 1985, Layla gains inspiration from a rich and complex European-Afro-Jewish-Russian-Indian-Caribbean heritage. Her transdisciplinary approach to research and teaching orbits around matters of dance/ performance / corporeality; cultural memory / trauma; gender / sexuality; diaspora / race / migration; and space-time.
Layla earned a Ph.D. from the Center for Transdisciplinary Gender Studies at Humboldt-University, Berlin (2017). Her dissertation explores the role of dancing bodies in the transnational production and transmission of cultural memory. She was a Visiting Research Scholar at Columbia University, Institute for Research on Women, Gender and Sexuality (2015-2016), and at the University of California San Diego, Department of Theatre & Dance (2015). She also spent a year as an exchange student at the University of Cape Town (Center for African Studies), and holds a bilingual M.A. from the Sciences Po Paris School of International Affairs.
Upon graduating, Layla gained research and organizational competences in the public and private sectors, at the French National Assembly as a parliamentary staff for Christiane Taubira, former French Minister of Justice. Other professional experiences also include research and event management in the science and technology branch, for Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and FIMOR North America, as well as in the non-profit sphere, for instance at the AfricAvenir International Headquarters in Douala, Cameroon; and at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.
Honors and awards include a Doctoral Fellowship (2013-2016) from the Jewish Talents Program administered by the Foundation Ernst-Ludwig-Ehrlich-Studienwerk and the German Federal Department of Education (ELES/BMBF Begabtenförderung), and a Graduate Award from the Modern Language Association (MLA). Her academic and artistic projects have been funded by Humboldt-University, Technical University, Bielefeld University, Mainz University; and by foundations such as Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung, Gerda-Weiler-Feminist Foundation, Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah (FMS Paris), Amadeu-Antonio-Stiftung. Layla is also an awardee of the French Ministry of Youth, Bourse Envie d'Agir; Zurückgeben, Foundation for Jewish Women in Arts & Sciences, and DOSHIMA Jakarta where she received the European Documentary International Award of Recognition for Dancing Through Gardens.
As a teacher, Layla Zami was recently honored with the First Prize in the Teaching Award from Humboldt-University, Faculty of Humanities, Social and Cultural Sciences (Fakultätspreis für gute Lehre). The class of her own design "Performing Memory: race, gender and diaspora in cultural discourses and practices", ranked Best Humanities Seminar across Germany in 2016.
Recently, Layla gave talks, presentations, and lectures-performances at institutions such as Rutgers University Philadelphia; Goldsmith University London; Humboldt-University Berlin; City University of New York; Bielefeld University; Europa-University Viadrina, Mainz University; Cité Internationale Universitaire – Maison-Heinrich-Heine Paris; Yeditepe University Istanbul; Literaturfestival Potsdam.
Her academic and creative writing in German, English and French was published by UNESCO; w_orten&meer, transcript; Orlanda Frauenverlag; AfricAvenir Exchange&Dialogue, as well as in juried journals, newspapers and magazines.
As an artist, Layla completed professional development programs in performing arts with the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), Oxana Chi Company, and Conservatoire du Mans. She also enjoyed training with very talented artists such as Oxana Chi, Suheer Saleh, Pat Hall, Bilonda Bukasa, Xiao Lin, Mestre Grande da Bahia, Fuasi Abdul-Khaliq and Parageet.
As a co-founder, with Oxana Chi, of li:chi – transcultural network for art & political education, Layla organizes transdisciplinary events, conferences and festivals. Most recently and most significantly, she initiated and co-chaired the International Symposium-Festival Moving Memory held at Berlin Technical University October 20th-22nd, 2016 in cooperation with the AlleFrauen* Referat and the Berlin Future Program Berlin 2050 – Stadt der Zukunft.
As a performer (poetry / acting) and musician (saxophone / kalimba / sounds), Layla toured with Oxana Chi Company at festivals, conferences and events across the globe. Their tour history includes: Indonesia (Solo International Performing Arts); France (Cité internationale Universitaire, Maison-Heinrich-Heine; Gallery / Bookshop violetteandco); Taiwan (Taipei Fringe Festival); the USA (Dixon Place Theater; BAAD!; CUNY Annual Women Conference; Women's Month at Rutgers University); Turkey (Writing Women's Lifes). Tour history in Germany includes: HAU3 Berlin; Jewish Festival Jüdische Musik- und Theater Woche (Societätstheater Dresden); Gender Weeks - Aktionstage Gesellschaft Macht Geschlecht (Bielefeld University); Poetry Meets Soul; Black History Month; exhibitions opening Homestory Deutschland (Hamburg); EDEWA (Berlin); and Tanzende Erinnerungen (Galerie Gondwana, Berlin).