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Darat Al Funun celebrates 30th anniversary

By Muath Freij - Feb 14,2018 - Last updated at Feb 15,2018

The main building of Darat Al Funun after renovation (Photo courtesy of Darat Al Funun)

AMMAN — As soon as Jehad Ameri graduated from school 22 years ago, he began looking for a centre to further enhance his artistic skills. 

Since 1996, he has been frequenting Darat Al Funun, where he has attended a number of “high-quality” lectures. 

“There are many artistic centres in Jordan but the unique thing about Darat Al Funun was the advanced activities it usually hosts. Since I learned about the existence of Darat, I have remained in touch with it,” the Jordanian artist and professor recalled. 

On Tuesday, Ameri took part in an exhibition marking Darat Al Funun’s 30th anniversary, not as a student observing the works this time, but as an artist.

In the past 30 years, Darat Al Funun has become the hub for local and Arab artists to showcase their works and engage in discussions with other art enthusiasts. 

In 1988, Suha Shoman, founder and director of Darat Al Funun, launched the first activities in the field of art at the Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation’s Scientific and Cultural Centre, which was initially founded ten years earlier as the first foundation in Amman designed to support science and knowledge. The centre then organised group and solo exhibitions for both established and emerging artists. 

“In 1988, the country was not able to support art because there were other priorities. The centre’s idea was to give artists a space to display their works in a professional way and discuss these works with the public,” she told The Jordan Times in an interview at Darat Al Funun. 

“Our idea was not just to create a place to display art, the vision of Darat Al Funun was more of a theory and a practice at the same time,” Suha recalled.

She said Darat came out of the need for artists to be discovered and learn about each other. 

“I came with Jordanian architect Ammar Khammash and saw the first house located at the heart of Jabal Luweibdeh. It was totally abandoned and the conditions were very poor,” the founder remember, adding “it was essential for us that the centre be located at the heart of the city. We also wanted public transportation to reach this house so it would be easy for anyone to reach this place, which is open to the public.”

Currently, Darat Al Funun consists of six historical buildings that were restored and divided into various sections. 

One of the buildings, “Beit Al Beiruti”, is a residential house built in the 1930s by Hafith Ghitani Al Beiruti from Lebanon, which was restored in 2013 and is now open to the public. 

“Dar Khalid”, another site, was dedicated to the memory and legacy of Khalid Shoman in October 2002. 

The “Blue House”, built by Circassian Ismail Haqqi Abdo in the 1920s, was named after the colour of its porch, doors and wrought-iron window bars.

For its part, the “Main Building”, originally built in the 1920s, was renovated by Khammash in 1992. 

Meanwhile, “Ghorfa” serves as an art display room, while “The Lab” was founded in 2011 as an experimental space and a hub for emerging artists and innovative projects, according to a statement by Darat Al Funun.

The “Artist’s Residence”, an apartment building adjacent to the lab, was added to the compound in 2013 to provide accommodation for visiting artists. 

In the southern gardens, the “Archaeological Site” houses the ruins of a 6th century Byzantine church and an old cave.

“Over 230 exhibitions have been hosted at Darat, every one of them running for three months in accordance with the international exhibitions system so people can have the opportunity to admire these works,” she said, adding that Darat Al Funun is an art centre with different kinds of artistic and cultural facilities rather than just an art gallery.  

In celebration of its 30th anniversary, Darat al Funun held an exhibition inspired by the poetry of Mahmoud Darweesh starting Tuesday.

“We received 100 people’s requests, 20 of them from Jordan. We will include a great number of young artists including a 15-year-old artist,” Suha said. 

She stressed that she is happy to receive any project inspired by Darat Al Funun, which she will welcome “with jubilation” as there is a great need for art activities, centres and exhibitions in Jordan. 

“Darat Al Funun is an oasis of knowledge and art is not a luxury, it is for all,” the founder concluded. 

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