Down to Earth: UAE gardeners to gather at Jameel Arts Centre event

Jameel Arts Centre will be hosting workshops, talks and launching a community garden as part of its programming

Jameel Arts Centre is hosting Down to Earth on December 12. Beno Saradzic

In the midst of the global pandemic, home gardening has been having a moment. On Saturday, December 12, seasoned and novice green thumbs in the UAE will get a chance to come together for community event Down to Earth at Dubai’s Jameel Arts Centre.

Taking place outdoors in Jameel Arts Centre's gardens and Jaddaf Waterfront Sculpture Park, the event will include gardening workshops for children and adults, expert talks on sustainability and ecology and a green bazaar with items from 16 local businesses.

“We’re no strangers to the green space,” says Lana Shamma, head of programming at the centre, referring to its numerous garden spaces and park, as well as its Artist’s Garden commissions programme. “We wanted to broaden our programme a little bit. For us, it’s really important to bring those threads together in a way that brings public programming, education and something outdoors, to bring people to get together safely.”

One of Jameel Arts Centre's gardens. Mohamed Somji

Grow & Tell

One of the highlights of Down to Earth, which opens from 10am to 6pm, is Grow & Tell – a series of presentations from eight home gardeners and enthusiasts in the UAE sharing their experiences. The participants were chosen from an open call announced by the centre last month.

Among those speaking at Grow & Tell is herbalist-in-training Shereen Al Mulla, who has taken on a soil regeneration project in her villa’s home garden, tearing up the artificial grass and restoring the soil’s natural pH levels.

There’s also Giulia Cavallari, a structural engineer who has turned her living room and balcony into a verdant sanctuary and who will provide tips on water propagation.

Artist Vikram Divecha will discuss his urban farming project Beej, where he worked with Sharjah’s municipal gardeners to plant seeds from Pakistan at a public roundabout, with produce disturbed to the community.

Talks, workshops and performances

Down to Earth will also host talks on topics of sustainability and conservation, specific to the UAE. Yazen Al Kodmani, operations manager at Emirates Bio Farm, which has been around since the 1970s, will speak on organic farming in the country, while Ahlam Bolooki, co-founder of social enterprise Mangroves 4 Mankind, will share insights into how to restore mangrove ecosystems globally.

Workshops for adults range from an introduction to gardening by myfarmdubai founder Mohamed Aissaoui to Ikebana flower arrangement by certified instructor Harue Oki, as well as the art of the tablescape by Anoud Alzaben.

Jameel Arts Centre's rooftop garden will be the site of the performance Once Upon a Garden featuring actress Paolo Balbi from The Storytelling Company.

One of Anound Alzaben’s previous tablescapes. Courtesy Jameel Arts Centre

Jaddaf community garden

The centre has also cleared out a plot for local residents to build a community garden with produce. “We wanted to do this for so long … It will be activated on a weekly basis, where we’ll be planting herbs, vegetables and fruits and residents will be able to come together as a community. We’re hoping to put out a basket for the extra produce that people want to take,” Shamma says.

Artist’s Garden commission

Since its inception, Jameel Arts Centre has envisioned the garden to be a site for meditative pause, but also a space for artists and researchers to expand on their projects.

The centre has seven outdoor courtyards, designed by landscape architect Anouk Vogel, that punctuate the different gallery spaces inside. The eighth garden, referred to as the Artist’s Garden, is where practitioners can display their work.

Desert is a Forest by Sunoj D and Namrata Neog. Installation View at Jameel Arts Centre's Artist’s Garden, commissioned by Art Jameel this year. Daniella Baptista

This year, the Artist's Garden features the commission Desert is a Forest by Sunoj D and Namatra Namrata Neog. Reflecting on the UAE landscape and its nutritional habits, their garden includes indigenous plants traditionally used for medicinal purposes.

A tour of the gardens as well the commission will be held as part of Down to Earth, with curator Nadine Elkhoury leading the presentation for the Artist’s Garden.

Entry to Down to Earth is free, though some workshops require payment or registration. More information is available at jameelartscentre.org