Bees, mud and a retro shopping mall.. meeting Muslala artists
The Muslala project is one of the most exciting initiatives taking place in Jerusalem (in my humble opinion). I rock up to meet the Muslala members in their new hub, based in the Clal Building on Jaffa Road. It's a retro looking 15-story office tower and indoor shopping mall, built c.1972, it does not look like it's had a revamp since.
It's not the most obvious space for an artistic hub - there are feral cats running around and having toilet-time in the pot plants, during the summer days the place feels like a greenhouse, and the mall shops look like they need a Mary Portas makeover.. apart from the more seedy ones which apparently are regularly frequented.
"It's a little bit skanky " says Zohar, one of the artist, as she preps a mango. I am impressed with her use of the term skanky. But the plans for the space and the work taking place within it are so exciting that we can excuse all of cat pooh...
Firstly, to give you a bit of context, the Muslala project is made of a group of about a dozen artists, originating from the Musrara neighbourhood, dedicated to 'creating public art in-between Jerusalem many borders'. So what does this mean? They have workshops, exhibitions, tours, festivals. They use arts as a vehicle to connect people and communities.. and for social action/ change. Sustainability is the key word and they are interested in the role that the artist has in visioning and creating more eco-friendly cities.
We are joined by Daphne, an well-seasoned visual artist who started her training in ceramics before finding her true calling - working with earth. The studio space is full of buckets of mud, mixed to different consistencies and Daphne excitedly shows us a new tool she has acquired. To me, it looks like a standard trowel, but she explains how different textures and finishes can be created with the range of tools. It's fascinating stuff.
We sit outside and look at the architectural drawings which detail the space's development plans:
- A family space
- Recycling facilities
- Artist workshops
- Display/ exhibition space
- Bee hives (there were already a few in action)
- A variety of trees to be planted
- Community gardening space
The space reflects the ethos of the Muslala project , and it could realise their collective dream of a creating a 'greenhouse for initiatives between art, society, and sustainability', with a strong reach and impact beyond the lentil-eating-hippy-punters. And with growing support from funders and community members, it could be a project that really takes off... this is definitely one to watch.