Bint Mbareh (@bintmbareh) (b.1995) is a sound artist and musician raised in Palestine. Until her Master in Ethnomusicology at Goldsmiths she was oblivious to the fact that Palestinians had systems of worship and saint veneration that were obliterated by modern Salafism and theological and spiritual colonisation. Her research into the history of water dispossession in the region brought her back to the saint, who was sometimes (physically) nothing more than a deep-rooted tree. Neighbours of the saint always relied on them to cure the poorly, to bring the rain, to bring fertility to the soil and the human body, and to guide the ancestors to safer places. Bint Mbareh explores popular routes to reclaim the spiritual tradition of saint veneration by listening deeply to the songs sung for the saints, in their honour, and composing them again for 2022. She has a special interest in communal sounds/loudness in struggles for sovereignty.
She has performed rain summoning rituals at Exist Festival in Palestine, Darat al-Funun in Amman, at Arab Women Artists Now in London, At Sawa Sawa platform for Shubbak Festival, in addition to being Youth Music resident at Cafe Oto in London and performing commissioned work in Mophradat’s Read the Room Festival (Brussels) and BUDA Kortrijk’s Next Festival. She has also published writing in al-Khidr Zine.
All images courtesy: the artist
PALESTINE / UK
The channel to a neighbour I have not yet met, 2022.
Sound installation with holographic fan, candles, fabric, 20 minutes.
In 1267, the procession of the prophet Moses began to be celebrated in an area near the lowest point on earth called Khan-al-Ahmar, with an eerie resemblance to the planet Mars. Khan al-Ahmar which means “red market,” derives its name from the region’s ruddy soil. The area that once held a very salty sea, is now an arid heath. Settled communities have celebrated their triumphs here, in a manner similar to Martian cults. Its cemetery hides the myth of sexual shame that is characteristically Martian, as many honour killings are buried there. Furthermore, the shrine is surrounded with stories of vengeful manifestations by its guardian spirits. For instance, a sandstorm would erupt every once in a while in response to the proximity of an adulterer or a thief.
There is endless strife here, but the celebration comes back relentlessly asserting the fact of eternal return. In 1920, the British Mandate of Palestine determined that the festival was persistently fanning communalist tensions and incubating protests against the inroads made by Zionism, and decided to put a stop to it. Decades later, DJ Sama Abdulhadi took to the location as a site for celebration and filmed herself with the support of the Palestinian Authority doing a techno DJ-set. Once again, and for the 3rd or 4th time in a century, a kind of revolution asserting the importance of the location erupted.
The site rejects any attempts at subjugating its fiery nature, mirroring the long tradition of sung remembrance instituted by communities of visitors to the shrine. Furthering this tradition, The channel to a neighbour I have not yet met imagines the future of shrine visitation in Palestine. The artist locates sound as a productive means of refusal in the rupture between now/then, living/deceased, from here/not from here. Visitors may feel welcome to light candles, as is tradition, and to listen to the sound that accompanies the work.