Jasmine Abu Hamdan. Hakawati, the art of storytell...

Jasmine Abu Hamdan. Hakawati, the art of storytelling

The historical information available to us that speaks of the history of humanity, tells that one of the most popular ways that the community had to pass on the vicissitudes of everyday life was to tell them around the fire or draw them inside the caves. Thousands of tales have been handed down from father to son for generations and although sometimes the stories underwent substantial changes in characters, places or other details, the essence of the story remained unchanged. It makes me think of those tales from Arab culture (but not only) such as The Thousand and One Nights that are born as collections handed down to posterity by word of mouth. Telling is an art, the best way to do it is to be faithful to the story and try to convey it without too many plot upsets. The theme of memory has always recurred also in art: cyclically, some contemporary and historicized artists have made it their battle horse, but few have tried to pass on an event, a place or a character to the future.

Jasmine Abu Hamdan is certainly among these artists. She is a Lebanese-Palestinian architect / artist who grew up in Jordan, she graduates from the Architectural Association and now lives and works in London. Her work focuses on the reconstruction of cultural heritage sites destroyed by socio-political conflicts through the aid of intangible media, experimenting with narrative spaces for the public to experience. Her reconstructions capture the narratives of marginalized voices grappling with issues relating to social and political structures. For this reason the artist conceives spaces that allow people to question themselves about dominant socio-political constructs and that trigger revealing dynamics and intimate experiences with the aim of instigating changes and questioning the reconstruction and interpretation of heritage.

Her personal exhibition running until November 21, 2021 at Venice Art Projects in Venice is the perfect summary of everything I have just told: an app that you are invited to download when you enter the exhibition, will accompany you inside the spaces and will introduce you to the Hakawati which in Arabic means: narrator. This character belonged to that now defunct tradition of the narrator, who told stories, episodes and anecdotes concerning the city community in bars and meeting places. Within this exhibition you will be able to access a soundscape that will make you partakers of a truly existing heritage, which is important to remember and pass on.

The work of Jasmine Abu Hamdan prompts the listener to ask concrete questions about why this figure was an important piece in a cultural and political fabric, like that of Aleppo, and how it is possible to pass on a unique storytelling experience to posterity. The technology comes together in this: an immersive installation that takes up the soundscape of the Aleppo market before its destruction during the war in Syria, allows us to listen to the stories of the various inhabitants of the market, who narrate intimate moments of their days or of their lives. People are invited to circulate in space listening to stories and voices actually recorded in the market stalls. In this sense, the installation highlights the loss of tangible and intangible heritage and the importance of safeguarding it. Jasmine Abu Hamdan’s exhibition is a mirror on all that we are losing due to external factors and suggests how every story should be safeguarded because it brings with it the intimacy of the human being, that truth / essence that makes us all unique stories in the great book of the world.

Francesco Liggieri


Jasmine Abu Hamdan. Hakawati
23/10/2021 – 21/11/2021
Fondamenta S. Gioacchin, 1830 Venezia

Jasmine Abu Hamdan. Hakawati, 2021, installation view at Venice Art Projects, ph. Jasmine Abu Hamdan, courtesy by the artist


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