‘Garbage to Garden’ by:
Reham Sharbji – Resident Artist
She was trained in painting and earned a BFA in Fine Arts from the National College of Arts in Lahore, Pakistan, where she went to discover her roots, and lived there for 7 years. Returning to Jordan two years ago in response to an inner calling, she’s currently teaching art at the Ahliyyah School for girls in Amman. “Although it is very challenging and quite taxing, I believe in integrating the Arts into the education systems and I hope to be able to do that effectively in the years to come.” she says.
(<Picture left: Reham stands infront of her project 'Garbage to Garden')
Interesting dialogue you created, between the old and the potential of the new. What kind of settlement did both sides come to terms with?
I don’t think there was a settlement reached. What I did was respond to an existing and continuing issue by simply acting upon the urgency of the situation. The bakery was a dump, I got it cleaned and then filled with plants.
In modern psychology, it is believed that it’s pointless to try to change a certain personality trait negative ones especially. But instead of dealing/coping with them, use them as a tool to make the most out of a person. How did you in-vision the bakery, in its worst condition, yet made it look so appealing?
In terms of psychology, the bakery could be a representation of the general attitude towards issues that are too big to deal with. It is easier to ignore it rather than deal with it, whether on part of the residents of Al Qala’a, or the Greater Amman Municipality. This place was abandoned many years ago, and has been filling up with dirt since. It is not unique; you will see many such places acting as blotches in the landscape of any given city. I envisioned it as an appealing space precisely because of its horrible condition, as contradictions and opposites always attract me, because that represents the duality without, which nature cannot exist. One’s job is to realize the unity of such duality; here I simply did so by attempting to pose “what could be” in such a space.
Aspiring change without losing the authenticity of the place (keeping its soul and attachment to its roots) – how did you proceed to achieve this tricky mission?
Well it was very easy. I had been talking to neighboring residents, discussing what could be done, a couple of days before the opening I met up with the local sanitary workers and pointed out that it is indeed their job to clean it up since it is owned by the municipality. Obviously it was a very challenging feat, and we actually had to pay them in order to get the job done. The plants in turn were donated by the lovely people at Shams Gardens, who installed them after the clean up.
Talk to us more about your method. Why the mask and bread with notes?
That was a performance at the launch of the project. The gas mask, chemical suit, and warning tape were props for enhancing the danger posed by such spaces. The roof is actually very weak and could cave in any day, the garbage piling up for years has probably disintegrated into chemically hazardous waste, and so I was trying to draw attention to the fact that it is indeed a health hazard. The paper in the bread was simply because this place was a bakery back in the day, so in a way I was giving out bread from the window of this health hazard, people took it, ate it, wrote their suggestions on what the place could be, some gave back the bread, a few threw it away, and one lady scolded me saying it was very wrong to be giving out bread in such a dump. For me, it was interesting to be playing out a contradiction, a guy in a chemical suit giving out free bread at a landfill. It did draw lots of attention and some of the residents later told me that this place is actually a health hazard as it was taped down recently. That was both hilarious and proof that it did have some kind of impact on the general apathy towards the place.
What’s your next step with the Bakery?
I do not have any plans at the moment, it was more about highlighting the fact that such places come to be. The residents don’t necessarily care much for it as it is now again filled with garbage. The point was that these spaces are always left untouched, and when claimed by the GAM, either continue to be ignored or get demolished. I attempted to give it some importance, perhaps the GAM could be pushed to do something about it, but a renovation is highly unlikely.
‘Crocodiles have been and still are’ by:
Nour El Taher – Resident Artist
Having graduated from Concordia University and lived in the beautiful city of Montreal, she grew to appreciate publicly displayed art and understand what the setting of art did to a piece. “The audience is the piece.” she says.
(Picture right: Nour sits by her project 'Crocodiles have been and still are/ Birds have been and still are'>)
The rough texture, the worn out door, the uneven bricks – interesting choice of medium. Why this wall in specific?
I was very drawn to this wall in specific because of its obvious raw appearance. The door and the holes especially. I feel that it is a good representation of the area, especially the way the residents describe it. When I asked about this wall they were surprised to see that someone finds beauty in it; “but behind this wall is where all the garbage goes. And it’s falling apart. And the door is broken.” I thought the evidence of time on this wall is an example if what the neighborhood portrays.
Why did you project Jabal Al Qala’a in the form of the crocodile? What are the characteristics of this animal in the people there?
After doing my research and discussions with the residence of the neighborhood I realized that the best qualities I can portray are time and authenticity. I found that crocodiles and birds are amongst the oldest species on earth. The relationship between al Qala’a, and its residence, with these creatures became so clear to me. There’s survival, sustainability, rugged and rough exterior.
Digging deeper than the psychical form of the crocodile, expression and emotions- crocodiles are believed to shed tears after preying on their victims, which proves the phrase” crying crocodile tears” to be false- Under their armored skin, basic survival instinct, what is inside the Qala’a’s heart?
It was extremely refreshing to see how hospitable and accepting the people of Qala’a are. The children were very excited and looked for any chance to help the artists. It was very interesting to see how eager the residence were to have people come in and learn about them and their traditions. They looked after our well being and safety.
Aspiring to change, making a difference. Is it achieved and maintained through wearing a protective shield or taking it off?
Wearing a protective shield will get us no where.
What is the impact you intended to leave on the people there?
It is very important for me to break all walls and barriers between the 2 sides of the city (West & East Amman). For us, the artists, to spend this much time in Qala’a was educational for all of us. It required that we leave our comfort zones to understand and accept differences. As for the people of al Qala’a, I realized that most of them forgot how to appreciate and see the beauty and history in their neighborhood. We reminded them. Hopefully.