Spotlight || Palestinian Artist and Cook Mirna Bamieh
I am reluctant to start this feature.. I am apprehensive, a heavy sense of responsibility falls on my shoulders.. It is my duty to tell you about Palestinian Mirna Bamieh , it is also my duty to give justice to her heroic work. The word heroic is usually associated with stone-throwing, hatta-bearing young men, invariably running from Israeli sniper fire. What if I told you that Mirna Bamieh, an artist and cook is also heroic, in her own way.
Times have changed and modes of rebellion have also.. Mirna Bamieh has chosen the dearest element to the Palestinian people, their land and what it bears. Allowing it to tell the story of Palestine’s history, resilience and future. If you thought that the Israeli oppression was limited to incarceration and separation of people from their homes, then you are mistaken. There is a psychological oppression that instantly affects hundreds of thousands of Palestinians around the world, and that is their shared culinary history. The politics of disappearance and memory production is something that Mirna has been involved in for years now.
As a resident of Palestine, she is privy not just to the blatant disregard for human rights, but a more sinister underground effort to make the Palestinians forget their land, and what it produces. The Palestinian people are a farmer nation, their connection to the land is twofold, that of belonging and that of subsistence. Slowly but surely the Israeli Oppression has separated the people from their produce, erasing memories of their culinary history. Have you ever wondered why it hurts an Arab so terribly when they hear the ever so popular terms: Israeli falafel and homos? It’s because human instinct connects to its mode of survival, food. When the Israelis claim the food as theirs, and also separate Palestinian cities and villages from each other with a concrete wall, these shared memories of ingredients and how they are used are slowly sandblasted from their collective minds. Did you know that it is illegal for Palestinians to pick green zaatar (thyme), maryamiyeh (sage) and 3akoub (cactus) from the land of Palestine. They say they don’t pick it properly…
But wait…the above is all true, but is also heavy and burdensome. It almost feels like sludge weighing the Palestinian people down with feelings of victimization and helplessness. This is where Mirna comes in.. If loss is what Palestinians feel, then it is gain that Mirna gives them in some small way. If it is disappearance that Palestinians fear, then it is remembrance that she grants them. And if it is separation that Palestinians have experienced, then Mirna in her own way gives them belonging.. all through humanity’s most basic of needs…food.
If you Google Mirna Bamieh they will tell you that she is an artist and film-maker, she was… That was her initial mode of communication as a creative. Always interested in human interaction and engagement it was on one eventful evening in Kyoto in 2017, after hours and hours spent in front of a computer editing that she question her calling. At that point in her life, she needed something more tactile as a mode of communication, and that is how the Palestine Hosting Society was born.
The Palestine Hosting Society is a live art project that investigates food practices in Palestine. The project brings back the dishes to life, over dinner tables, walks and various other interventions. There is no single place where stories are created and shared more than around a dinner table. So it was only natural for the society to host people around a table to share the stories of Palestine.
After an extensive research period in the chosen city. Mirna is known as a deep diver, totally and completely emersing herself in the city, meeting with the residents, investigating their ingredients, recipes and even their traders and merchants. Creating a holistic impression of the city’s unique culinary attributes. A menu is then created that best depicts her findings. Focusing primarily on traditional recipes that are all but forgotten, but safeguarded in the memories of our elders. The table is then set.. 40-60 people converge on the creative space to experience the city and its flavors, in a unique form of artistic expression. Mirna serves as the guide during this culinary journey, walking them through imaginary streets and trails. Turning proverbial corners to discover new food combinations and delightfully surprising ingredients.
Mirna is a storyteller.. the time she takes to discover a city, its people and their culinary traditions allows her to weave a tale of wonder.. All encompassing, her dinner table events are for all the senses not just taste. To see the congregation of likeminded people around the table gives a sense of belonging. The delightful historical tales of why, how and when these traditions were created are soul food for the ears. The artistic presentation a feast for the eyes..the aromas heightening our sense of smell. Perhaps most importantly, reviving the city’s cuisine touches the heart and imagination of the participants, adding an element of surprise with its intriguing and unlikely combinations. Louf pesto anyone?
I had the pleasure of attending a presentation by Mirna Bamieh last night, generously hosted by Zina Jardaneh.. Mirna’s positive energy was palpable.. her love for Palestinian food contagious, and her hopes for the future of Palestine’s cultural traditions infusing us with a sense of possibility. In a word, Mirna gave us joy.. by reconnecting the attendees with a little part of what is rightfully theirs, we were left feeling richer, standing a little taller, our chests puffed out ever so slightly.. Mirna brings the flavor back in a empowering way, something everyone can be part of..preserving the rich culinary history of the Palestinian people.
Perhaps the most telling of Mirna’s influence is the role social media has played in her journey. Since the Palestinian Hosting Society’s Instagram was established, it has become a powerful platform for relaying the homemade recipes of Palestinian people from all over the world. Mirna shares her knowledge, and in turn has established herself as a credible source to preserve our ancestral heritage. People send her their recipes, ensuring that they are in safe hands and will live on for at least a few more decades..
Keen to experience Mirna’s magic? The Palestinian Museum’s Inaugural Gala on October 14th 2019 will include a proverbial guided menu by Mirna herself. For more information on ticket sales, contact us