In her cinematic investigation into the Palestinian practice of foraging za’atar (a thyme-like herb) and ’akkoub (a wild artichoke-like plant), artist Jumana Manna reveals the perils involved in the preservation of Arab traditions under Israeli law. Her inventive blend of fiction, documentary and archival footage in Foragers coalesces into a warm portrait of a community whose daily activities resist continued repression. It is our pleasure to partner with Bidoun—an intelligent, irreverent, and original magazine and curatorial platform committed to arts and cultural coverage of the Middle East and its diasporas—for this screening, an encore to their recent collaboration with Anthology Film Archives.
Foragers begins with archival footage from a ‘70s Israeli TV program in which the popularity of za’atar among Arabs is being discussed. The footage shows an Israeli businessman boasting about his decision to start planting and selling za’atar; in turn, transforming the herb from a public good typically foraged by Palestinians into an agricultural commodity that profits Israelis. (It is no coincidence the footage is from the same decade that saw a public ban on the collection of za’atar in Israel.) Manna’s film is clear about how business and politics are embroiled in the continued erasure of Palestinian culture to such effect that the “very simple act of going out and collecting wild weeds” becomes about “a much wider politics of land control and sovereignty.”
“The starting point is the love of collecting wild plants in springtime and the magic of the landscape coming to life, and then the madness of being confronted with a legal apparatus that is so petty, that details where and how much of these plants you’re allowed or not allowed to collect on a land that has already been expropriated and confiscated into Israeli state land. Many of these lands where the foragers are collecting are lands that used to belong to their villages. This is the way the Nakba is the backdrop of all aspects of life, because that’s what it means to live under occupation.” JUMANA MANNA
For Manna, Foragers is the product of her longstanding interest in the “politics of preservation” and her own experience foraging alongside her parents, who appear throughout the film. Her refusal to let Israeli authorities decide “what gets preserved and gets erased” informs her approach to filmmaking, in which the documentation of family customs affirms Palestinian values and traditions against systemic attempts at blotting a people, their land, and their culture from the world’s collective memory.
Berlin-based artist Jumana Manna explores how power is articulated across several artistic modes including sculpture, filmmaking, and writing. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Oslo National Academy of the Arts and a master’s degree in Aesthetics and Politics from the California Institute of the Arts. In 2018, her documentary Wild Relatives earned the New:Vision Award at the Copenhagen International Documentary Festival for its “optimism, empathy, and agility in engaging with the present.” Her follow-up Foragers was similarly lauded and earned the Harrell Award at the Camden International Film Festival in 2022. More recently, her work was on view at the 13th Taipei Biennial and the subject of a major exhibition at the Wexner Center of the Arts.
Text written by Nicolas Pedrero-Setzer. Special thanks to Tiffany Malakooti and Negar Azimi.
- Credits for
- Aziza Manna, Adel Manna, Zeidan Hajib, Mahmoud Shawahde, Nadia Na’amneh, Ihab Salameh, Falah Zu’bi, Najma Hamdan & Samir Na’amneh
- Marte Vold, Yaniv Linton & Ashraf Dowani
- Jumana Manna & Katrin Ebersohn
- court hearings scripted by
- Jumana Manna & Rabea Eghbariah
- sound recording
- Montaser Abu ‘Alul, Raja Dubayah & Ibrahim Zaher
- sound design
- Rashad Becker
- co-commissioned by
- BAMPFA The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, BAK basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht; & The Toronto Biennale
- supported by
- Arab Fund for Arts and Culture - AFAC, The Fritt Ord Foundation & Arts Council Norway – Kulturrådet