online - workshop
The Darat al Funun 2021 Summer Academy

July – October 2021

The academy offers participants the space to develop their art practice within a critical setting that encourages experimentation, knowledge-sharing, and communal learning. Taking place as part of the Postcolonial Ecologies project, this year’s program will be curated around a set of fundamental questions concerning ecological crisis, systems of value, and life futures, in light of which the participants will explore new conceptual and aesthetic strategies that entangle both artistic and ecological practices.

What are the limitations of mainstream discourses on the environmental crisis? Is humanity as a whole responsible? Who are the people that are being affected the most? How do we read environmental degradation from a perspective that entangles class, race, and gender dynamics? 

How have the legacies of colonialism affected our relationship with our landscapes and ecosystems? How can we expand our understanding of colonial violence to account for the assaults carried out upon indigenous lands and environments? What kind of image or semantics make visible more contemporary forms of colonialism such as development practices, the neoliberal seizure of communal land, and the contamination of our nature commons? How can we contest the commodification of land and nature toward a planetary perspective that recognises land as a source of life and subsistence?

Can technological solutions help, or does the answer lie in rolling back to more “primitive” ways of living? And most importantly, who will bear the cost of any proposed solutions?

Can we imagine other possible worlds that channel and mediate new forms of social organisation? What does a praxis of decolonisation that acknowledges the agency and complicity of local structures and the crisis of the state form look like? How can we contribute to an imaginary that goes beyond structures of race, ethnicity, and nation-state? Moreover, can we envision a politics that transcends the figure of the human to include non-human (or more-than-human) beings as witnesses and agents of change? 

participants will engage with and begin to answer these questions as they negotiate both contextual and personal gravity points. While there will be a basic guiding structure, the program is designed to allow participants to shape the trajectory of their individual and collective experiences. 

The curriculum will include workshops, screenings, discussions, and excursions. 

Invited faculty members will include Sahar Qawasmi and Nida Sinnokrot (Sakiya Collective), Jumana Emil Abboud, Kareem Estefan, Firas Shehadeh, Islam Khatib (WikiGender Collective), Reef Fakhouri, Dina Bataineh, and Nujud Ashour (Taghmees Collective).

*The majority of the sessions will be in Arabic. Translation will be provided if needed for sessions facilitated in English.


Part I: The View from “No-Man’s Land”
The mainstream discourse on ecological and environmental crises builds on a separation of the problem from its historical and economic roots. Like most crises, they are presented as sudden, unintentional and surprising events. The current pandemic is a representative example. However, environmental devastation is at the core of the modern and colonial project, which has been historically based on extraction, the reengineering of native ecosystems and the exploitation of labour-power in the name of prosperity, growth and progress. Decolonisation as decontamination.

In this part of the program, we will explore the post-colonial effects on ecology, the  discourse around the ‘Anthropocene’, digitality, ecological struggle, computation, aesthetics and value. Examining the interactions between native ecosystems and colonial contamination and the ways in which this affects life, we will look at post-conceptual art practices/contemporary art through the prism of ecological thinking.

Part II: Witnessing and Worldbuilding in the Wake
What does it mean to witness other possible worlds from within (ecological, political, economic) disaster? How might the concept of “opacity,” proposed by Martinican poet and theorist Édouard Glissant, or the links between memory and futurity in Afrofuturism and indigenous futurisms, reorient our understanding of popular witness figures like Naji al-Ali’s Handala? This seminar will explore theories of witnessing that look beyond the discourses of social trauma and international law, drawing instead from artistic and social practices of “fabulation,” “speculation,” and “worldbuilding.” Attuning ourselves to the distinct temporary conditions of disaster experienced by different communities, we will seek modes of “witnessing as worldbuilding” that challenge the “capitalist realism” identified by the British cultural critic Mark Fisher, in which “it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.”

Part III: Rewilding Pedagogy
Rewilding Pedagogy takes the act of ‘rewilding’ as its point of departure, rewilding the soil from the ravages of monoculture agriculture, and rewilding local knowledge cultures from colonization and encroaching neoliberalism. Rewilding pedagogy is an approach for envisioning new networks, systems, and processes that can mediate new spatial and social configurations essential for new political, socio-economic, environmental, and material realities. This kind of cultivation takes hard work and is a fundamentally creative and collaborative process. As part of the Summer Academy at Darat al Funun, we will plug into Sakiya’s ongoing work in imagining and creating a global eco network of garden structures made in keeping with local indigenous crafts and science. We will invoke a connection between art and ephemeral infrastructures in the form of social sculptures offering a decolonized more than human communication. 

Part IV: The Water Diviners
Envisioned as an open exploration of the wonders and the wanderings of folktales and their inherent connection with the natural environment, the workshop shall function as a platform for imagining our very own stories. Workshop participants shall act as diviners, guided to locate the tales within themselves as well as within their natural surroundings. Working in the natural landscape of Jordan, and drawing on the artist’s experience in performance and live art, the workshop sessions shall utilize integrated exercises and collective exchanges that fully engage in storytelling and water themes.

The intensive workshop encounters are imagined as an arena for experimental creation that channels storytelling through the land and its waters. The tools for divining will include working in drawing using various materials, working site-specifically & through land art exploration, as well as working through body movement & sound; all of which will build up to a collaborative live art action at a future date. The practice and exploration of performance art – ranging anywhere between action painting, happenings, land art, sound and video work, with individual as well as group activity – will act as our interlocutor between place (the natural landscape), and story (folktale). In other words, the exercises in performance art will “speak between” us diviners and the natural environment around us. Consequently, participants will develop a creative and conscious relationship with the land and its water sources. Our roles as water diviners shall bridge a reconnection to folktales and the empowering qualities of stories.

Workshop: Mud Building
The earth is not merely what we walk upon; it is a source of life in all its forms: our food, homes, culture, and existence. There is life beneath and within the soil; we may not see it, but it exists. Over two days, we will immerse ourselves in mud to understand what it means to each of us, engaging closely with it, getting to know its different types and characteristics. We seek to understand the soil, touch and smell it, experiment with it, and create from it. 

In these two days, we hope to connect and build a relationship with mud through our hands and through reflective conversations that allow us to digest our collective experience and shape our personal meanings. 

In this social kitchen, we will be accompanied by mud and soil enthusiast Nujood Ashoor in an immersive experience in mud building, combining our work with reflections and conversations around food to help ground our learning.


The Summer Academy program will take place from 1 July - October 2021. Participants are expected to commit to the space of the conversation by attending all sessions.


Darat al Funun is a home for the arts and artists from the Arab world. We trace our beginnings to 1988 and are now housed in six renovated historical buildings from the 1920s and 30s, with a restored archaeological site in the garden. We aim to provide a platform for contemporary Arab artists, to support art practices and artistic exchange, to stimulate critical discourse, and to research, document, and archive Arab art.

The 2021 Summer Academy takes its inspiration from the 1999-2003 Darat al Funun Summer Academy which was established on the occasion of our 10th anniversary to provide a key opportunity for emerging artists to study and work under the supervision of the late Berlin-based Syrian artist Marwan. Over the course of four years, over 60 artists from Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Iraq attended the academy.