Dr. Layla Zami is an innovative academic and artist working with words, music, performance, and video. Born in Paris, France in 1985, Zami gains inspiration from a rich Jewish-Russian-German and Afro-Caribbean-Indian heritage. Based in Brooklyn, NY, she is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Pratt Institute, with research, teaching and advising responsibilities in the Departments of: Humanities and Media Studies, Performance and Performance Studies, History of Art & Design, and Art & Design Education. Her scholarship 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.
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.
Zami is former Assistant Producer and current Co-Curator of Dance and Board Member at the International Human Rights Art Festival (IHRAF). Other community service duties include the 2019-2020 Bessies Committee, the Dance/NYC Symposium Programming Committee (Founding Member), and the Immigrants. Dance. Arts. Research Initiative, a joint initiative of the Dance/NYC and NYC Mayor's Office. Other professional experiences 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. Layla Zami also worked at the French Parliament as a close collaborator to Christiane Taubira, former Head of the French Department of Justice, who passed important laws in the fields of racial and gender equity. Zami is also a former Program Co-Chair in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
Dr. Zami was honored with the 2017 Teaching Award, First Prize (Fakultätspreis für gute Lehre) from the Faculty of Humanities, Social and Cultural Sciences at Humboldt-University, Berlin. The class of her own design "Performing Memory: race, gender and diaspora in cultural discourses and practices" also ranked Best Humanities Seminar across Germany in 2016.
Other honors and awards include Mellon Research Grants (2019 and 2020) awarded through the Pratt Institute's School of Liberal Arts and
Sciences, a Doctoral Fellowship (2013-2016) from the Talents Program administered by the ELES Scholarship Fund (Ernst-Ludwig-Ehrlich-Studienwerk) and sponsored
by the German Federal Department of Education (BMBF), a stipend from the Foundation for Jewish Women in Arts & Sciences "Zurückgeben" Berlin, the "Bourse
Envie d'Agir" from the French Ministry of Youth (2010), and a Graduate Award from the Modern Language Association (MLA).
Zami's research and creative projects have also been funded by Humboldt-University, Technical University, Bielefeld University, Mainz University; Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung, Gerda-Weiler-Feminist Foundation, Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah (FMS Paris), Amadeu-Antonio-Stiftung, who founded her academic and creative projects. Layla also received the European Documentary International Award of Recognition for her contribution to the film Dancing Through Gardens.
Zami is delighted to tour as an invited speaker, educator, and performer. She has presented her research at institutions such as University of Toronto, Rutgers University Philadelphia; Goldsmith University London; Humboldt-University Berlin; The Center for the Humanities at the City University of New York; Aktionstage Gesellschaft Macht Geschlecht at Bielefeld University; Europa-University Viadrina, Mainz University; Cité Internationale Universitaire – Maison-Heinrich-Heine Paris; Yeditepe University Istanbul; Literaturfestival Potsdam.
As an interdisciplinary performer, Layla Zami creates and performs music (saxophone, kalimba, chalumeau, loops), poetry and physical theater in collaboration with the dance company Oxana Chi & Ensemble Xinren. In Germany, she performed at Werkstatt der Kulturen Theater, Hebbel am Ufer Theater (HAU), Homestory Deutschland Hamburg, Poetry Meets Soul Prachtwerk Berlin, Galerie Gondwana, Societätstheater Dresden, Technische Universität Berlin (Technical University) among others. Tour history in North America includes Abrons Arts Center, Dixon Place, Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance, CUNY BMCC, Rutgers University, Triskelion Arts, University of Toronto (Robert Gill Theatre). Oxana Chi and Layla Zami also performed at festivals, conferences and events in Indonesia; France; Taiwan; India; Martinique.
Layla Zami obtained a Saxophone Diploma from the Conservatory of Music in Le Mans, France. She completed the Bootcamp for Performing Artists offered by the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) and recently obtained a Musicianship Certificate from the Berklee College of Music via Coursera. She studied with outstanding artists and pedagogues in Berlin, Paris, and New York: musicians Fuasi Abdul-Khaliq and Parageet, dancers Oxana Chi, Bilonda Bukasa, and Pat Hall, martial artists Mestre Grande da Bahia (capoeira), Xiao Lin (Kung Fu), Michel Assouvie (Tai Chi Chuan), yogis Gopan, Surinder Ji, Pilin Anice, actress Suheer Saleh, and pantomine actor Nils-Zdenek Kühn. As a Resident Artist with Oxana Chi Company, Layla learnt a lot, and participated in artistic residencies at the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning (Queens, NY, 2018), Abrons Arts Center (2017-2018) and Maison Rouge/Maison des Arts (Martinique, 2014 and 2019).
As a co-founder, with Oxana Chi, of li:chi – transcultural network for art & political education, Layla curates and organizes transdisciplinary events, conferences and festivals. 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). Based on this success, she curated the Moving Archives event at the CUNY Graduate Center in collaboration with the Center for the Humanities in 2018.