Art

Arab Britain: Jarda جاردا exhibition at People’s History Museum in Manchester open now

The Arab British Centre is delighted to announce the opening of Jarda جاردا  , a mixed media installation open from now until 10 October 2021, created as part of their Arab Britain theme in partnership with People’s History Museum (PHM) in Manchester. 

Arab Britain is a programming theme of the London-based charity that explores the history, achievements and experiences of Arabs in Britain. Centred around the long-term goal of creating an archive of Arab British experiences through commissions and community engagement, the theme was first launched in 2019 aiming to highlight stories of migration, diaspora, and the intricacies of the “Arab British” experience, in all its intersections and diversity. 

“Jarda was a whole other world, but one that was not untouchable or pretentious. It was creating art with an open heart, a way of connecting with trees and souls that were very similar to my own. Meeting these ladies has been a homecoming for me, I felt as though I validated my inner child’s need to explore and create. All of the workshops that led to the exhibition were completely incredible. So fun, well thought out and creative. Most of all, I loved being around women with similar backgrounds and yet we are so diverse in nature, in touch with nature and kindly being together.” – Maryam Alsaeid, Jarda co producer  “We came… we connected… we collaborated” – Soraya Agaoglu, co-producer 

Jarda جاردا  – ‘garden’ in Moroccan Arabic dialect – is a co-produced project devised by Manchester-based artist Jessica El Mal in response to this theme, inviting women from Arab backgrounds in Manchester to take part in a series of workshops focused on art, nature and identity. The workshops built up to the creation of a mixed media installation which is on display now as part of the PHM’s wider programme for 2021 exploring migration. The project was selected by a Community Programme Team made up of people whose lives have been shaped by migration who have been helping to shape People History Museum’s exhibitions and activities, 

El Mal’s practice regularly centres around ecology, the environment and migration. Her inspiration for Jarda جاردا  came when the UK was still in lockdown and when parks, fields and forests became our only outing. The word Jarda comes from Jardin, commonly used in Moroccan dialect and derived from the French word for garden. Following a call out in May for women to take part as co-producers in the project, across June and July El Mal led six workshops, five of which were outdoors in Manchester and Salford’s green spaces including the Royal Horticultural Society’s Garden Bridgewater, Peel Park and We Are Mud’s allotment.  

“The love of nature is like music… it is a common language that can transcend political and social boundaries” – Sanaa Sedaki, Jarda co-producer 

Co-producers Maryam Alsaeid, Hibah Ali, Sanaa Sedaki, Hana Masaarane, Reem Alazemi and Soraya Agaoglu created artwork at these gardens using photography, collage, self-portraiture, screen-printing and more. The installation they have created to display their work invites museum visitors on an immersive walk in nature through Arab British eyes and encourages viewers to re-question the green spaces we will never take for granted again. 

Alongside the physical exhibition in Manchester, the Arab British Centre will be releasing a free digital pack of creative activities people can do from home to engage in the themes of Jarda جاردا and reflect on their own connection to green spaces. Audiences will be invited to submit their activity responses to the Arab British Centre where they will be shared online as part of the digital campaign as well as displayed online as part of the upcoming Arab Britain digital gallery. To sign up to receive the pack, register for free on the Arab British Centre website.

Quotes from participants and partners: 

“Since it was first launched in 2019, our Arab Britain theme has set out to explore the history, achievements and experiences of Arabs in Britain. We are delighted to be working with People’s History Museum, Jessica El Mal and all of the wonderful Jarda co-producers in Manchester on this timely, ecological adaptation of our theme. Jarda highlights the universal comfort and connection we can all find in nature through intimate and personal reflections on home, belonging and the power of community. We hope that visitors to the museum enjoy their walk in nature through Arab British eyes and are encouraged to reflect on their own connections to it at home through our forthcoming digital activity pack featuring some of the workshop exercises.” – Amani Hassan, Programme Director of Arab British Centre 

“Working with this group of amazing women has made me appreciate Manchester, myself and my femininity in a whole new way. After the year we’ve just had this project and exhibition is the lightness we all need.” – Jessica El Mal, Jarda lead artist 

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