Collective Art-Making at (DIS)PLACED Workshop

Posted On:
10 July, 2017

June 22, 2017

I enjoyed everything. It was inviting, interesting, and thought provoking!

More than 60 people of varied backgrounds across Philadelphia met at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perry World House for our (DIS)PLACED Arts Workshop  featuring presentations by Syrian installation artist Buthayna Ali, musicians Kinan Abou-Afach and Hafez Kotain, and poet Nazem El Sayed with literary scholar Huda Fakhreddine.  Following the presentations, attendees were invited to participate in either an art, poetry, or music workshop. These workshops allowed audience members to delve deeply into the psychological and emotional state of being displaced, and use the medium (of poetry, visual art, or music omit) to express their innermost thoughts and personal narratives.

The first presentation was a video conference with Buthayna Ali from Damascus, Syria. Buthayna was invited by Al-Bustan for an artist residency this summer in Philadelphia,  but she could not secure a visa due to the current administration’s travel ban on people from Syria and six other countries.  In an effort to honor her work and participation in the project, Al-Bustan invited her to participate in this workshop.  Despite the challenges posed in connecting with Damascus (residents of the capital city have only four hour slots of electricity broken up throughout the day), she was able to stay connected via video to see the workshop unfold.  She shared an overview of her art work and views as an artist living in Syria now — a duty as she sees it to continue to live and work in her home country.

A musical interlude by Kinan and Hafez complemented the transition from discussion with Buthayna and poetry readings in Arabic and English by Nazem and Huda.  Participants then segued tino 3 breakout sessions to explore and share each other’s experiences and stories. The feeling of displacement is(very relatable human emotion no matter the amount of life experiences or place of origin we all felt displaced at some point.) one that everyone whatever their life experiences or origin could relate to strongly.

As Nazem noted earlier in his presentation, displacement and the feelings associated with it are part of the universal human experience that ties us together. The connections made between participants as they were led in exercises of self-expression, quickly fostered an atmosphere of openness and understanding.

During the music workshop, more than twenty participants joined musicians Kinan and Hafez to contribute to a final musical composition presented at the end of the workshop, which demonstrated cross cultural understanding of various forms and styles of music.

The poetry workshop, led by Nazem and Huda, involved audience members crafting short poems to encapsulate their own experiences with displacement – which Nazem and Huda plan to combine to form one final collaborative project.

The art workshop, led by Alaa Alhajji was based on a previous installation series by Buthayna. Using photographic portraits, transparency paper, markers, newspaper clippings, and other mediums, participants created either books or hanging mobiles expressing their foremost thoughts and experiences.

I enjoyed the workshop with Kinan and Hafez. It’s interesting to see how music-making happens collaboratively!

It was really great that the musicians used the experience of the artist in Syria [Buthyana Ali] as the base for the our musical composition. A very well done music experience.

At the end of the program, participants regrouped in the World Forum of Perry World House and shared the final products of what they created in the workshops. The diversity in modes of self-expression and range of personal narratives were striking, as well as the awareness of a mutual understanding of what defines place and displacement for each person.

This workshop was co-presented by Perry World House and Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, as part of (DIS)PLACED: Expressions of Identity in Transition.

Major support for (DIS)PLACED project is provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. Additional support by Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, and partners Penn Global and Mural Arts Philadelphia.