Mohammed SalehUrban Farm, 2019.
Photo: Emily Jacir, courtesy of the artist & Dar Yusuf Nasri Jacir for Art and Research, Bethlehem

The Politics of Planting in Occupied Territories

Marta Wódz
I asked Yara about her relationship with art while we were driving back to Ramallah after my first visit to Om Sleiman Farm. She replied that she would describe herself not as an artist but as a farmer-activist and educator. Yet, since she has recently started (successfully) applying for art grants to carry out her research projects, her activities have entered a new domain. Her case seems to be a part of a bigger trend; among other Palestinians working at the crossroads of agriculture, environmental activism, and art are Mohammad Saleh (from Mostadam Eco Design) and Baha Hilo. During my conversation with Yara, however, I learned that the intersection of art and agriculture would gain yet another dimension at the Foraging Fireflies festival, co-curated by her and Shayma Nader and organized by SuperMelon.1 1 - Organized in partnership with Om Sleiman Farm, Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center, Sakiya Art Science Agriculture, and Dalia Association. This new art initiative aims to bridge a gap between the cultural and the agricultural by drawing attention to everyday practices connected to the land and farming — practices that, even though seemingly casual, bear a significant political meaning.

SuperMelon made its entrance on social media on April 15, 2023. Focusing on food sovereignty in occupied Palestine, it sought to connect artists, researchers, local farmers, and activists to initiate a multi-faceted discussion and counter the increasing disconnection between society and food production. The inaugural series of public events — the Foraging Fireflies festival — took place both in Ramallah and in rural locations outside the city, and included workshops, walks, film screenings, wheat harvesting, activities for kids, lectures, performances, public debates, and obviously, celebratory collective meals made with local products. In this way, SuperMelon exposed two topics emerging at the intersection of agriculture, food, and activism: presenting agriculture-related interventions as artistic and simultaneously positioning these interventions — without disguising their political statements — within what T. J. Demos calls “political ecology.”2 2 - T. J. Demos, Decolonizing Nature: Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2016).

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This article also appears in the issue 110 - Agriculture

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