Palestinian artist's installation in Dubai reimagines everyday spaces as bomb shelters

Dima Srouji is a Palestinian artist who grew up during times of conflict in her home country. As a child, she and her family would use ordinary spaces in their house, like the staircase and bathtub, as makeshift bomb shelters when violence broke out. They would gather in these areas to try and distract themselves from the dangers outside and feel safe together. 

Now living in Dubai, Dima has created an art installation at the Alserkal Arts Foundation that tells the story of her childhood experiences through reimagining everyday spaces as bomb shelters. The installation is part of a public art project and features three different “shelter” areas – Hearth, Library, and Sanctuary. 

Each area is based on a type of space Dima’s family used for sheltering during times of crisis. Hearth represents a place for gathering and sharing meals together. Library has books placed inside for people to sit and read. Sanctuary is meant as a quiet space for meditation and prayer. 

Through her artwork, Dima wants to both share her personal story of growing up during conflict and provide a space for others from struggling communities to gather. The Palestinian diaspora community in Dubai as well as those displaced from places like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen can use the shelters as a place to come together in mourning or celebration. 

The shelters are designed to feel safe and secure like real bomb shelters through their enclosed designs. However, Dima’s main goal is to transform traumatic places into ones of comfort, distraction and community like how her family sought shelter together during difficult times. 

Visitors to the installation are encouraged to interact with and use the different shelter spaces as they were intended – reading in the library, sharing lunch in the hearth area or meditating in the sanctuary space. Dima hopes both diaspora communities and others in Dubai can experience and appreciate what it means to seek shelter in compressed areas during times of crisis or conflict.

Through reimagining ordinary spaces and sharing her personal story of resilience, Dima’s art installation in Dubai aims to provide sheltering places for struggling communities while raising awareness of their experiences. It celebrates how architecture and community can help people cope with trauma by distracting themselves and gathering together for support.

In short, Palestinian artist Dima Srouji’s installation in Dubai transforms everyday spaces into reimagined bomb shelters, sharing her experience growing up amid conflict and providing gathering places for displaced communities.