Our perception of the world and our memories are constructed from the sights, smells, sounds, textures and tastes gathered by our senses, which is why the whiff of a perfume or the sound of waves on the beach can trigger memories that transport us back in time. Sensing Memory — the summer programme developed by Alserkal Programming — invites UAE residents to explore this connection between the senses and our personal and collective memories through a variety of activations at Alserkal Avenue. The programme, running until September 15 includes free workshops, talks, seminars, book discussions and performances ranging from Tai Chi lessons and coffee tasting sessions to talks on astronomy and intuitive art workshops.
Throughout summer the Avenue is also hosting art, theatre and dance camps for children, free film screenings by Cinema Akil, unique food events by INKED, and performances ranging from plays to magic shows at The Junction.
As part of the Sensing Memory programme writer Kevin Jones is leading a book club in discussing Marcel Proust’s The Way by Swann’s, the first volume of his seminal work In Search of Lost Time, which examines notions of memory and time. Starting July 21, masters Hang and Luo from Shaolin Kung Fu, the first Chinese martial arts school in Dubai will lead Tai chi sessions on every Saturday to help participants align their mind and body, relieve stress and find inner peace.
A variety of talks will address different aspects of the relationship between our senses and memory. Hasan Ahmad Al Hariri, head of Dubai Astronomy Group will present two talks titled Stories in the Sky and A Trip Down Memory Lane discussing the history of earth, the formation of the solar system, ancient Greek and Arab stories about the night sky, and how ancient civilisations used celestial bodies as memory tools. Architect Asna Moazzam will make an interactive presentation on the history, conservation and revival in the UAE of traditional Arish (palm leaf) Architecture.
Irish-Libyan photographer Jalal Abuthina will share experiences from his projects documenting old areas of Dubai such as Satwa and Deira in his talk Visualising Memory: Archiving an Evolving City. In a talk titled Inherited Memory: How the Generation After Remembers War, Partition, and Genocide, Dr Maya Aghasi, assistant professor of literature at the American University of Sharjah will explore how the descendants of those who have experienced traumatic historical events recall them, how inherited memories shape one’s identity and the role imaginative fiction plays in keeping that memory alive. The audience will be invited to share their own stories and how their memories have influenced them.
The workshops include Creating Memoir from Memory: Your Life as a Book, where writer Allison Williams will guide participants in writing their memoirs; and Memories and Traditions in Perfume-making where perfume artist Mona Bassam Haddad will teach the art of creating perfumes linked to our memories and personalities. The Jam Jar will host a workshop on Intuitive Creativity designed to help participants discover subconscious memories, feelings, thoughts and sensations and transform them into artworks; and Techarc will host a panel discussion on Sense and Reality in the Virtual Age How are our senses changing in the digital age? with professors Alex Albani and Hendrik Wahl from the American University in Dubai.
Wafa and Amirah Tajdin, founders of Seven Thirty Films will conduct a workshop on the basics of documentary filmmaking; and Hananah Zaheer, founder of Dubai Literary Salon will train writers to create stronger prose by using all five senses in a workshop titled, Set Your Senses on Fire!
The multi-sensory Coffee Tasting workshop at Nightjar will take participants through the various stages of coffee production from cultivation and roasting to the smell, feel, taste and history of various coffee beans.
The programme also includes Stage Write 2018, a 24-hour playwriting competition themed around sensing memories with the winner earning a spot in the Short+Sweet Theatre Festival 2019 at The Junction. Sima Dance Company will conduct a contemporary dance workshop led by Alaa Krimed that explores the relationship between memory and movement, and also present a contemporary dance piece choreographed by Krimed that is inspired by memory and its relation to dance. For children, Akansha Goenka, cofounder of The Junction will conduct an Interactive Storytelling session using props.
These events of the Sensing Memory programme are free and open to all, but spaces are limited so prior registration is necessary. For more information visit alserkalavenue.ae and #AlserkalAvenue or @AlserkalAvenue on Facebook, twitter and Instagram.
Several creative spaces in the Avenue are also hosting summer camps and workshops for children during the school vacations. These include photography camps at Gulf Photo Plus, musical theatre camps at Sima Performing Arts and art camps at The Jam Jar.
The film programme by Cinema Akil, titled Fierce! features American films about pathbreaking women to be screened on Saturday evenings. Other summer activities at the Avenue include The Ten Hands Dinner at INKED — a pop-up culinary event bringing together five chefs to create an eight-course dinner designed to please the senses; and an acting workshop conducted by theatre instructor Sol Abaid at The Junction.
Jyoti Kalsi is an arts-enthusiast based in Dubai.
Sensing Memory will run at Alserkal Avenue until September 15.