First artist research residency in Marrakech invites Yara Dowani
BY YARA DOWANI AND LOUISA AARRASS, PROGRAMME CONSULTANT
25 May 2023
Photos provided by Ch[a]rita programme
This winter we hosted our first GDF residency by inviting Yara Dowani, farmer, activist and a researcher from Jerusalem in the framework of the Ch[a]rita / السِّيس __ Mirages of resistance programme. Ch[a]rita invites artists in dialogue with the action-research carried out by QANAT collective (based out of LE 18, Marrakech gallery and cultural space) and the Ateliers Collectifs programme of the Dar Bellarj Foundation.
Yara’s interest in farming began in 2017 after joining a permaculture design course and later through her travels around Spain visiting sustainable projects and farms to gain knowledge about different management approaches. She has been part of research groups studying perennial plants and edible wild plants in Palestine and since 2018, while being part of many initiatives and movements working on agroecology and food sovereignty, she has been farming and managing Om Sleiman farm. Currently Yara’s interest lies mostly in research and the educational part of farming and community forming.
Part of the fellowship residency program was to spend a month in Morocco to develop her research around water and farming in dry land areas using heirloom and local seeds that are drought resistant. These seeds depend on the rain or the moisture in the soil at the end of the winter season. Yara aimed to learn from Moroccan agricultural techniques used by farmers and the challenges they are facing with water shortages, rain patterns during the rainy season and how that affects their practices and yields. Based on these challenges and solutions, Yara connected the research she has been carrying out in Palestine around the same topics with hopes to exchange knowledge and seeds between Palestine and Morocco in the future.
During her time in Morocco, Yara also hosted exchanges with other farmers and gardeners in Marrakech, starting with a series of workshops for a group of women who run a rooftop garden at the Dar Bellarj Foundation, a cultural space in the medina of Marrakech. These workshops covered topics around soil health and microbes, liquid natural fertilisers and seasonal crop plans.
Another workshop was built around reimagining public space and learning how to design spaces that fit different purposes or functionalities. This workshop was hosted in one of the few public urban greenspaces of the Medina, the Riad Laarrouss garden nearby the Dar Bellarj Foundation, open to anyone interested in joining. This workshop introduced observation and design techniques, followed by collectively designing how they would like this space to be used. While in the garden some of the younger participants got their hands dirty, making seed balls with species that regenerate the soil such as legumes and alfalfa. This was a great day filled with artistic explorations and interventions, food sharing and urban farming.
Yara’s residency culminated with a presentation of 𝕌𝕟𝕤𝕖𝕖𝕟 𝕤𝕡𝕣𝕚𝕟𝕘 عين ما بتنشاف: 𝕓𝕖𝕥𝕨𝕖𝕖𝕟 𝕣𝕖𝕒𝕝𝕚𝕥𝕪, 𝕗𝕚𝕔𝕥𝕚𝕠𝕟, 𝕒𝕟𝕕 𝕕𝕣𝕖𝕒𝕞𝕤. Unseen spring is a lecture performance developed during Yara’s time in Morocco, offering to uncover forgotten stories and practices of fetching and storing water, ways to discover underground water, and how rainfed agriculture, as well as inherited agricultural knowledge and seeds can offer solutions to food sovereignty in dry lands.
Water is the first element that communities looked for when settling down to make a territory their home. Yet, Bil’in, where the Om Sleiman community farm is located in the Area C of occupied and fractured Palestine, is quite literally ‘a village without a source’.
Drawing from interviews and conversations with the elders and farmers of the village and the experience of co-running the Om Sleiman farm for several years, Yara Dowani offers to uncover forgotten stories and practices of fetching and storing water, ways to discover underground water, and how rainfed agriculture, as well as inherited agricultural knowledge and seeds can offer solutions to food sovereignty in dry lands. Furthermore, her intervention explores how the holistic work developed at Om Sleiman spurs from an understanding of farming as a way of collective resistance not only to settler-colonialism military occupation, but also for a different communal life to be put in practice. Watch Yara’s lecture performance below.
This was the first residency edition of our emerging Arts and Ecology programme that we look forward to sharing as it grows.
This edition of Ch[a]rita / السِّيس was curated by Francesca Masoero & Rim Mejdi with the assistantship of Sarah Mounia Kachiri and made possible thanks to the support of the Fondation Susanna Biedermann, and through the generous contribution of the Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Rabat and the Global Diversity Foundation.