Community Garden and Food Performance
During the month of October, Bostan el Hara” transformed the ‘Kulturfolger’ gallery space into a vibrant indoor garden. This dynamic installation offered an immersive experience for plural communities to unite through different care and nurturing labours with plant kin.
For the title and concept, we were inspired by two Arabic terms.”Bostan” (ﺑﺴﺘﺎن) means orchard or garden, evoking imagery rooted in the landscapes of the SWANA region. Complementing this, “El Hara” (اﻟﺤﺎرة), which translates to an alley or tightly knit neighbourhood, contextualises our project within Kulturfolger’s district.
Our exploration delved into the possibilities and tensions of gardening and cooking within an art space amid ongoing gentrification in Wiedikon. So, Bostan El Hara was a canvas for relationships, dialogues, and learning opportunities among humans and plants. We gathered a diverse flora of edible and medicinal plants through a widely spread call for participation in June. Then, throughout the month, the exchange continued through three gardening and cooking sessions based on diasporic values, heritage stories and community labour. As October transitioned from summer to autumn, we prepared perennials, trimmed herbal bushes, and incorporated the harvest into our kitchen.
The culmination was the “Pleasure and Reciprocity” dinner, where we transformed the gallery into a collective kitchen experience. We gathered the aromas of the plants and chillies that gave life to our Bostan El Hara, honouring the generosity of our garden communities in Zurich and Basel. Along a banquet spread over the whole space, we tasted autumn ferments, collectively produced with our neighbours of Wiedikon and Langstrasse in each gardening session.
We prepared a three-course meal performance inspired by collective recipes from our motherlands (Egypt and Peru) and complemented it with locally sourced ingredients. By the end of the evening, we gave away cuttings and seeds from our plant companions, so this garden expanded and flourished in the next season.
In this project, we listened and learned from collaborators, humans, and nonhumans. Our belief that food is a reciprocal bond shaped each stage of this project. “Bostan el Hara” was a garden thriving on conviviality and collective labour and will long live in our memories as a loving dinner that brought us together.