(DIS)PLACED Workshop: UnPacking Our Memory

Posted On:
15 January, 2018

January 13-15, 2018

As part of (DIS)PLACED: Philadelphia, Al-Bustan invited five young adults who have been involved in the project to immerse themselves in poetry and visual art over three days with two of the project’s commissioned artists, poet Nazem El Sayed and installation artist Buthayna Ali.

Based in Damascus, Syria, Buthayna could not come to Philadelphia for her residency last summer because of the U.S. travel ban on Syrian citizens.  The alternative was to think of a way to represent her work in Philadelphia — that is how we came to host a 3-day workshop, conceived by Buthayna and facilitated by Philadelphia-based art therapist Alaa Alhajji, around creating an assemblage of memories using mixed-media, with poetry writing and discussion sessions led by Nazem.

Through video chats via Skype, Buthayna shared some of her work and inspirations and guided the participants in their art-making with one-on-one critiques.  With five participants who have vastly different stories and experiences in how they came to settle in Philadelphia, there were many interesting stories shared and learned from each other.  Each day began and ended with an hour led by Nazem discussing/writing poetry, poetic form, perspective, emotions, and more.  In the four hours in between the participants used drawing, painting, collaging, carving, writing and other media to create visual narratives drawn from their memories of home, place, and displacement.



On the first day participants worked alongside Nazem El Sayed to write a collective poem charmingly titled Strangers in an Empty Bank.

UnPacking Our Memory - Collective Poem

The memory “suitcases” and poems created by the participants are wonderfully rich and diverse expressions that we are excited to share!  They will be displayed in West Philadelphia over the coming months and as part of (DIS)PLACED project’s culminating celebration on March 11, 2018.

SHUKRAN to all of the participants:

Hajer Al-Faham •  Yassar Allaham • Afaq Mahmoud • Rushana Nasimova • Muhammed Sylla

ALF SHUKR to our supporters who made this workshop possible:

Pew Center for Arts & Heritage Penn Global (with Huda Fakhreddine – NELC)

And lastly, a huge thank you to The Peoples Emergency Center (PEC)  for granting us access to the bank!