Areej Ashhab is an architect and researcher whose work cultivates grassroots spatial practices and ecological pedagogies. She is the co-founder of Al-Wah’at and AlBlock collectives.
Areej holds a master’s degree with distinction from the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London. During her masters at Goldsmiths, Areej started the artist research collective Al-Wah’at, together with Ailo Ribas and Gabriella Demczuk, which is committed to growing communal practices in ecologies typically regarded as hostile and lifeless. The collective is embarking on their first project looking into the colonial and socio-political complexities of the prickly pear cactus and the cochineal insect. In 2021, she co-founded Al-Block collective that experiments with collective walking as a counter-mapping practice to document lost histories in the Palestinian landscape. Areej also participated in various projects as an independent curator, artist and designer, including Souq Stories (2021) exhibitions in Jaffa, Jerusalem and Hebron, Jerusalem Show IX: Jerusalem Actual & Possible (2018) organised by Al-Ma’mal Foundation for Contemporary Art in Jerusalem and Disarming Design Create-shop (2015).
Areej works with materials and practices from the land and activate local know-how through workshops, collective walks and tactile materials. For example, in her project Mountains reclaiming the stone, she studies both traditional and industrial uses of limestone, one of the most exploited natural resources in the construction industry in Palestine. She thinks of new perspectives for its use by designing mixtures of the slurry, a leftover material daily discarded in tonnes outside the stone factories, for tiling and cladding. In the research project TREESCAPES, she examine the role of trees as political beings in the Palestinian landscape and as agents in the human-land relationship. She revisits traditional recipes and agricultural techniques such as grafting and activate them in her organised walks and workshops. In her walking practice, she creates counter-maps, manuals and guides of areas that have been largely destroyed, transformed and marginalised due to settler-colonial and environmental violence, shares lost techniques and materials and reintroduces them into the contemporary landscape.
In 2021, Areej initiated Al-Block research art collective together with a group of Jerusalem-based architects and artists. Al-Block experiments with walking as a research practice to document land practices in Palestine. They organise collective walks in Jerusalem and its surrounding area to create counter-maps of lost histories and landscapes. They have recently produced a “walker’s log” book documenting their walks in Beit Hanina valley north of Jerusalem. They also presented their research in a public show as part of The Absent Map: Rural Jerusalem in an Alternative Narrative project by the Riwaq Association in May 2022.
In addition, together with a group of Palestinian activists and curators, Areej helped organise Souq Stories, a contemporary photographic exhibition presenting different aspects of daily life within the historical markets of Palestine. The show opened in July 2021 in seven Palestinian cities divided by the Israeli occupation through multiple geopolitical boundaries. She curated the exhibitions in Jerusalem, Hebron and Jaffa, working with local organisations and shop owners in the markets.
Chevening Scholarship (2020)
A full scholarship to enroll in postgraduate studies in the UK for the academic year 2021/2022
The Revital Seri Prize for Excellence (2020)
Awarded to outstanding students at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design