For MATRIX 278, Manna, a Palestinian artist based in Berlin and Jerusalem, presents the installation version of her new feature film Foragers (2022), co-commissioned by BAMPFA. For this film Manna takes as her subject the traditions and power structures that shape foraging for ‘akkoub (a thistle-like plant that tastes similar to artichoke) and za’atar (thyme), both wild edible plants that have been collected for generations in historic Palestine. Foraging ‘akkoub and za’atar has been criminalized by the Israeli government under the guise of conservation efforts, resulting in heavy fines, trials and prison sentences exclusively for Arabs who are caught gathering these plants. Filmed both before and during the pandemic, Manna’s investigatory meditation combines fiction and documentary to trace the entangled cultural and governmental significance of this cultural tradition and its legislation.
Following the plant from the wild to the kitchen, from the chases between local foragers by the Israeli Nature Authorities to the forager’s defense court rooms, this work is concerned with what is made extinct and what gets to live on. It carefully illustrates the importance of these food sources as sustenance and cultural symbol for people whose political autonomy, rights and land has been under attack for nearly a century. Framed within our current moment of particular ecological and economic precarity, Foragers examines human and non-human resistance in the face of intended erasure and alienation from the lands that sustain them.