RIWAQ in collaboration with Yara Sharif & Nasser Golzari

Secrets of a Digital Garden: 50 Villages – 50 Flowers
Palestine 2019

silent green Betonhalle
20.02.–01.03. 11:00–21:00, except 27.02. 11:00–17:00
03.–22.03. Tue-Sun 14:00–19:00

Mixed media installation, 7 min. English.

A future imaginary scenario set up in rural Palestine in the form of a garden with 50 flowers representing 50 Palestinian villages: Nothing is conventional in this garden. Not aware whether one is at the scale of the village, the city, or the room, the garden negotiates a new experience within the informal and the periphery that has been created as a result of a fragmented geography; a status of in-betweeness; in between the real and the imaginary, surface and bellow, absurdity and irony, physical and virtual.
The digital garden reclaims some of the 420 villages of today’s Palestine, but also marks and commemorates the 420 Palestinian villages that were razed in 1948. 50 slices of earth containing “digital” flowers have been brought to Berlin to narrate this absurd landscape. Capsules containing physical and digital DNA are trapped in each flower to capture and share the story of the 50 Villages project. It may eventually require DNA forensics to reveal the micro objects implanted within each flower. For Palestinians this will be awakened one day. QR codes offer an insight into RIWAQ’s digital archive.

RIWAQ – Centre for Architectural Conservation is an NGO founded in 1991 in Ramallah, Palestine by architect and writer Suad Amiry. RIWAQ’s main aim is the preservation of historic centers in rural Palestine. RIWAQ has succeeded in shifting the focus of cultural heritage preservation from the physicality and materiality of historic buildings to focusing on the quality of people’s lives and the quality of the private and public spaces in which they live. This is perhaps best exemplified by RIWAQ’s ability to provide some 120 community/cultural centers in 80 villages and towns, half of which were spaces for women and children.
RIWAQ’s Team: Suad Amiry (Lead Architect), Khaldun Bshara (Co-Director), Shatha Safi (Co-Director), Michel Salameh, Aya Tahan, Dana Abbas, Saja Mansour, and Yara Bamieh.

Yara Sharif and Nasser Golzari are award-winning architects and academics with an interest in design as a mean to facilitate and empower “forgotten” communities, while also interrogating the role of architectural politics and social commitment. Their work has been exploring new means to rethink the Palestinian landscape through speculative scenarios and live projects. Combining research with design, their work runs parallel between the architecture practice NG Architects, London and the design studio at the University of Westminster and their design-led research group Palestine Regeneration Team (PART).

50 Villages Project

Following the completion of RIWAQ’s comprehensive architectural survey (1994–2004), which resulted in the publication of RIWAQ’s Registry of Historic Buildings, it was revealed that almost 50% of the historic buildings in rural areas of the West Bank and Gaza are located in or around the same 50 villages. Hence it has become RIWAQ’s vision to focus on those 50 villages for the foreseeable future, working on rehabilitation projects to target improvement of services, infrastructure, and living conditions of the public and private surrounding spaces.

At a time when Palestine is facing setbacks in the political and economic spheres, RIWAQ’s 50 Villages endeavor hopes to make a qualitative addition on the regional scale. Empowering communities by offering means to improve their environment and living conditions implies responding to the urgent issues they face daily.

The 50 Villages project is a tool to reconstruct an alternative Palestinian map; a conceptual shift that moves away from a conventional restorative approach – that is, conservation and documentation of single buildings – into exploring the wider urban context while protecting its heritage. The project is embedded in a conscious approach to explore what could be done with limited resources, and to cultivate possibilities for change from within Palestinian historical fabrics. This process of re-reading the map is giving birth to new cooperative matrices and networks that are working together to stitch Palestine’s fragmented landscape.

Heritage architecture, in this sense, is no longer seen as a passive act rooted in romantic values as is common in many countries; rather, it is a dynamic form of enacting change. The concept and definition of heritage has gradually advanced, opening up possibilities for new understandings of urban spaces, buildings, and individuals. These possibilities embrace contemporary activities, meanings, and practices that one can draw from the past to shape the future.

Production Nasser Golzari, Yara Sharif, RIWAQ – Centre for Architectural Conservation. Production companies RIWAQ – Centre for Architectural Conservation (Ramallah, Palestine), Palestine Regeneration Team and Golzari NG Architects (London, United Kingdom). Directed by RIWAQ – Centre for Architectural Conservation, Yara Sharif, Nasser Golzari. Screenplay Suad Amiry, Yara Sharif, Nasser Golzari. Cinematography George Whitehead, Rim Kalsoum. Editing George Whitehead, Khaldun Bshara, Bashar Zarour. Music George Whitehead. Sound design George Whitehead. Sound George Whitehead, Sami Sa’id. Sound mixing Jeremiah Moore. Animation George Whitehead. Gaffer Bassam Jarbawi. Production design George Whitehead. Co-director Mohanad Yaqubi, Hamoudeh Shehadeh. Production managers Yara Sharif, Nasser Golzari. Executive producer George Whitehead. With George Whitehead (forensic scientist), Suad Amiry.

World sales RIWAQ – Centre for Architectural Conservation

Photo: © RIWAQ