Malou Rose is a long way from Bondi Beach. The Australian transplant has spent the last three years in Mongolia becoming an activator in the Ulaanbaatar art scene, launching a pop-up gallery, getting to know graffiti crews, and with the help of her repat partner, she’s launched a skateboarding program for kids. A photographer and an idealist, she’s made a niche for herself by exploring the most precious of Mongolia’s natural resources: the creative energy of its youth.
This year, Malou joined the board of directors of the homegrown International Street Art Festival, ТАТУМ (sounds like “Tatum”). The festival, funded by Alliance Francaise and the Goethe Institut, is five days of art, music, workshops, skate demos, and cultural exchange. It’s an endeavor that wouldn’t be able to take place without local support and participation, not only from the creators, but the city government and a hefty roster of businesses open to having their surfaces re-imagined.
GR: Where were you before Mongolia and what did you do there?
MR: I was “working” from my old Spanish apartment, getting a killer view of the ocean and swimming breaks at my little beach, Tamarama. It’s the next to the infamous Bondi Beach of Sydney, Australia. I was hanging in my own hood barefoot, a lot. We had a good café in the day, wine bar by night, friends for neighbours – all on our one street – and a big park at the end, taking you to the edge of a cliff that housed Sculpture by the Sea every year, so I could enjoy strolling around crazy art installations with my bro’s dog. My other time was spent producing photography shoots for fashion editorials and advertising, trying to make ends meet with creativity and inspirational pros.
GR: What brought you to UB?
MR: It was when digital photography replaced film in the industry. It wasn’t the same for me after that. There were some great changes, but I wasn’t as inspired and my own work ethic was dropping – which I didn’t like about myself. I had to do something. I knew I could learn more and get involved. My home city is extremely beautiful – I love it – but it also has a lot of rules and regulations to pay attention to, which can weigh you down. The only TV I watched was docos on National Geographic Channel, and Mongolia took my breath away: the nature, the history of horses, nomadic, romanticized ideas of sitting with the Tsaatan and reindeers, paired with wanting to work as a volunteer and learn about non-governmental organizations (NGO) for a straight month and nothing else in between. I wanted to work with children who weren’t able to be children. Since I had such an easy going start to life myself, it was time to learn to give. I researched and found out that Mongolia had loads of international organizations. One month turns into three years this June.
GR: Tell us about ТАТУМ. Who organizes it? Who contributes, and who attends?
MR: ТАТУМ, which is an old Mongolian word for something not finished, a continuing, never ending and growing sensation, is the name we came up with for the 2nd International Street Art Festival in UB. Part of the concept lies in the name, to educate and share information. June 15 is the big day for the whole community to enjoy. We’re hoping for a big family affair as we have events, activities and stalls for all ages. All week we have free, open workshops where locals, students, friends, foreigners, artists – basically all walks of life – can attend, with the exception of the graffiti workshop, where applicants were selected from their submitted artwork. The workshops are headed by international artists: DJ No Breakfast from France, who also paints with light; Noe 2 from Paris, deep in the history of French graffiti; German duo Matthias Muller and Andreas Ullrich, with their stickers and stencils; and Mario Auburtin, aka Spone, French graphic fine tip bomber. This year the project is being organized by Alliance Française de Mongolie and the Goethe Institute. We are lucky to have mainly local artists helping out on the big event day. This festival means a lot to them, as they see it as a platform to share Mongolian graffiti with the world.
GR: How did you become involved in the festival, and what is your role in organizing it?
MR: Everyone gets about when the snow finally melts in spring. I was relaxing outside at a central spot my boyfriend likes to skate, when my friend Saraa from Alliance Française, was walking past and told me what she was working on. I immediately proposed a skateboard event tying in nicely with the street genre. I was also about to hold my first pop up gallery party for artists. She also knew that I’m all about supporting artists here in Mongolia, and that I’ve been getting to know them. I volunteer with an organization called the Mongolian Contemporary Arts Support Association, and help out in their 976 Art Gallery.
I’m on the board, brainstorming, getting artists in on it and organizing our Skateboard Mongolia project. My boyfriend Eddie, is one of the original skaters in UB. After being with kids through the long winter here, stuck indoors, I felt a loss for them and kept thinking of how to release their cabin fever. I thought it’d be nice to have an indoor skatepark. A mutual skater friend told me about this guy who had recently returned from seven years in the US and Italy who also wanted to [build a skatepark]. He was a skater, which made me feel my idea had the possibility of being realized and stepped up. So we met, and took it further by adding what we think is important, mixed with our passions, so projects for children and the community surfaced, starting in UB.