I curated two iterations of Jam’atna for Warehouse 421, a digital Ramadan programme which engaged the local artist community while Covid Restrictions were at their peak, and the desire for togetherness during such a spirited time was paramount.
In the first iteration in 2020, Rania Jishi and I commissioned 30 artists from her Forsa Database, a Naqd Critic initiative which surveyed artists and designers in the region who had lost their incomes during the pandemic to produce social media stories which spoke about the theme of togetherness. With every commission, we spent a few hours (remotely) with each participant, offering care, empathy and trying to collectively get through our creative, financial and mental health blocks. We also organised an online ‘suhoor’ where we touched on topics of the pandemic and being a creative professional. This project was the initial foundation of Forsa School.
In the second iteration of Jama’atna titled Time, Synchrony, and The Divine, Mays Al Beik and I sought to offer four more online Suhoor happenings with tutors and the wider community. We presented a series which explored the communal spirit of Ramadan in a multi-dimensional way, addressing the Holy Month’s reconstruction of time. The programs were inspired by restructured eating habits, surrendering and the altering of our pace as a sacred act to synchronise with the holy month, and transcending our daily urban rhythms and cycles. Each host invited participants to rethink how their own creative practices synchronise and align with the values of the Holy Month.
Ghussein and Shaath carried out a soap making activity which challenged singularity by extending the lifespan of specific ingredients through the process of creating forms with longer utility and the ability to be shared amongst a group. Participants were encouraged to reflect on how and why they would share these forms with their own respective communities.
Moza Al Matrooshi and Marwa Benhalim - founders and curators of Attempting Abla Nazira - facilitated a roundtable discussion about foods and their accompanying idioms, anecdotes and memes. They sought to give participants the opportunity to join in the ceremonious preparation of a refreshment, and deep dive into critical nuances around food, its origins, and pop culture.
Poet Farah Chamma and artist Joanna Barakat collaborated to create a Happening which brought together the worlds of words and symbols. Inspired by ancient traditions, the poem first served as a tool for guidance, using the process of Divination. The words and meaning were then turned into symbols which were incorporated into a talisman - a wearable reminder designed and made by the participants using acrylic paint markers and a leather band.
The theme of this Happening, hosted by the Faraway Bistro, is the disruption of the table. The event manifested itself into a collective meal in which each participant was encouraged to interact with their tablescapes in an unconventional manner within the parameters set by the bistro at the time of the Happening. For example, our napkins embroidered with the words “Chew with your mouth open” encouraged everyone to disregard social etiquette at this off-brand feast. The audience’s role was to watch the experience unfold while the participants challenge their interactions with their individual tablescapes.