Potato Talks

A public performance project that is  staged in different cities and countries every time with a new different theme and new 10 people, that she goes with them through a process to make them Potato Talks storytellers.

Every edition of Potato Talks has the same flow: In a busy street, 8-11 storytellers peeling potatoes, opposite 10 chairs, for 2 hours.

The storyteller will be peeling a potato slowly and carefully, the empty chair opposite him, will be left empty for people in the street to sit on it, once a passerby sits on the chair, the storyteller starts will ask the person opposite him to help him by holding the peels, and recounts In a one-to-one interaction a personal story that peels through layers of the theme in focus.

After the story is finished, or even while it is being told the listener is free to interact and comment, or even join in peeling a potato and tell another story, there is no time limit for this action, and once it is the moment for the passer-by to leave. the storyteller will go back to peeling potatoes until another lister joins in and the story is being told over and over again.

Joseph Beuys once said: “Every sphere of human activity -Even peeling a potato- can be a work of art, as long as it is a conscious act.”

Potato Talks Project takes literally Beuys figure of speech—the act of peeling potatoes— and builds a platform that creates a set of interactions among the selected group of “storytellers” and the people in the public space where the performance is held. The Performance creates a situation that attempts to re-call attention to seemingly insignificant acts, to celebrate the ordinary, to uncover a new, yet altogether hold familiar aesthetics. Hence, the significance of how gestures become “signifier” holders, and symbol containers. Those pairings of stereotypes, daily gestures, and real life issues, creates a dialogue that ushers the many modes and alternatives for intimate discussions of how personal and collective identities could be pushed through the act of narration.

Why Potatoes?Other than the reference to Beuys’ quote, potatoes reached the Middle east in the 19th century to Egypt by British colonial officers, yet it became a base in middle eastern cuisine, its waxy and starchy properties, offer an almost neutral canvas for many other flavours and textures to raise.Potatoes are like stories they come from the land, they are familiar to the people in the street, yet the magic happens when those potatoes are brought from the closed doors of kitchens to the street, and start becoming the canvas for storytelling.

Potato Talks: Marrakech Edition, march 2016

The first Edition of Potato Talks was born in March 2016, after sharing a 3-week residency in Marrakech with International artists/ dancers/ performers. in the residency we were thinking about social sculptures, and from there Potato Talks came together. Nine from the residents , were part of the first edition of Potato Talks.

I made an intensive research on the History of Potatoes which was the starting point of discussion and later stories for the storytellers, we worked with them on Potato related childhood memories, potato histories of capitalism, colonialism, social roles, feminism, revolutionary actions and more.

Cities are a main character in each Potato Talks, it effects the interaction, and has a presence that gives each edition its own flavour. In Marrakech Edition, the storytellers who were mostly foreigners except for two, are seen by the Marrakchi street as “tourists”, during Potato Talks they stepped out the economy of “the tourist”, and reclaimed their voice, offering their personal stories. With the passing of time, the storytellers became listeners, and the street passersby led us through their own fascinating potato stories and beyond, through Potato Talks we all experience Marrakech through that magical overlapping of our stories and the stories of the street. and we all became Hakawati.
The first edition of the project, was performed in Marrakech with Maroc Artist Meeting as part of Marrakech Biennial.

                                        video documentation of Potato Talks in Marrakech  

Potato Talks: (Up)rooting, Ramallah Edition, October 2016

The second edition of Potato Talks, was staged at al-Manara/Ramallah in October 2016. 11 The storytellers peeled through layers of stories, that think/rethink what it means to be uprooted, to belong, placed we leave and those we return to, stories that tried to think what it means for a Palestinian to look at exodus in the ever-shifting world we inhabit.

During the 2 hours of each Potato Talk, I am always on the outside circle, explaining to people about Potato Talks. What is happening? Who are we? What are we doing, What are we aiming for? Why stories? Why Potatoes? “ Would you like to wait for a chair to empty and listen to a Potato story?”

Potato Talks was organised by Ramallah Municipality, as part of Qalandiya International, with "Sites of Return exhibition" curated by Sahar Qawasmi and Beth Stryker.

                                   video documentation of Potato Talks in Ramallah  


Potato Talks: Kitchen Recollections, Old city of Jerusalem, march 2017

The Third edition of Potato Talks was staged Suq Al Dabbagha (Suq Aftimos), Old city of Jerusalem on march 2017. Tis edition, was produced by al-Ma’mal for Contemporary Art.

In PotatoTalk: Kitchen Recollections, 7 storytellers shared stories about the generation kitchen of different their communities, who have been inhabiting the old city for centuries. We heard Jerusalem storytellers recalling stories that their great grandfathers brought with them from India, Uzbekistan, Chad, Sudan, Morocco, Armenia and other countries, they weaved these stories into their current life in the old city of Jerusalem One potato at a time.

                                    video documentation of Potato Talks in Jerusalem