Emel Tabaku

Vertical photograph of red wrapped canvas with red fabric draped on top of a wire mess on white background.

(Petulla dhe Bunkera) Donuts & Bunkers

Painted latex and expanded steel


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Emel’s research in diasporic communities, analyzing the impacts of migration on identity  formation and community belonging supports the creation of her large abstract pieces. She explores the notion of 'home' through an intuitive process of layering, abstracting and collaging of paint juxtaposed with the marriage of steel, plaster and latex to materialize what she has come  to term the autobiographical memory landscape.

The characteristic of hard, rigid steel mixed  with the malleability of latex and translucency of paint elicits nostalgic recollections of  childhood urban-based imaginaries. Petulla dhe Bunkera (Donuts and Bunkers) is an  architectural reconstruction of one of the many memories Emel holds of Albania, her homeland.  As the work itself explores concepts beyond home, of immigration and of cultural depletion, it  likewise provides an alternative understanding of the politics of place-based memory.

In creating Petulla dhe Bunkera, Emel had to dig within her very own archive of the familiar to translate vivid memories into abstracted material play. This rigorous process highlights her experiences  with the archaeology of the everyday – the urban, the public, the domestic and of immigration.  Through performances of cultural memories and explorations of urban liminal spaces, Emel’s  visceral and manipulated painting examines urban contemporary realities and the fractured  cultural landscape of hyphenated identities who continue to exist amid the all too familiar  chaotic, temporal and transitory in-betweenness.


Emel Tabaku (she/her) is an Albanian-Canadian Tkaronto based art-activist, social entrepreneur and dedicated youth advocate. Currently working towards her BFA at OCADUniversity, majoring in Drawing & Painting with a minor in Art History, Emel's research lies  in migrant resilience within the scope of Canadian immigration & multiculturalism policy. Her honours thesis, “On Finding Home: The Role of Reimagined Urban Spaces in One's Search for  Identity and Belonging”, reflects her diasporic experiences and highlights the social and political constructions that maintain the marginalization of the displaced, both in the context of  newcomer integration and Indigenous dispossession.  

Outside of academia, Emel Tabaku is the Founder & Executive Director of RCAD Initiative:  Redefining Communities through Art + Design - a non-profit organization with the mission to amplify the voices of underrepresented youth through storytelling mentorship, entrepreneurial skills training and innovative dialogue. Throughout her work, Emel is  passionate about driving intersectional equity-centred education to build creative resilient  communities. She strives to utilize the transformative power of art & design to advocate for  progressive policies that empower marginalized youth groups.

As a community-engaged artist mentee in the Judith Marcuse Projects/International Centre of  Art for Social Change FUTURES/forward program, Emel explores the nexus between art &  design, complex policy, and collective mobilizations by leading projects centred around  vulnerability, inclusivity and care.

Artist Website:


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