Imagining Freedom - Aleppo - Research Center for Material Culture
5 May 2017

Imagining Freedom: 4/5 Mei

Freedom Is Event | 5 May 2017 | Tropenmuseum

Freedom is a thematic programme organised annually at the Tropenmuseum as the museum’s contribution to the commemoration/celebration of 4/5 Mei. Complementing other events in the city of Amsterdam, the museum's contribution focused on cultural dynamics within an interconnected, globalizing world, around the question What does freedom mean for me/us?

The meaning of Freedom

In each event we critically reflect on the meaning of freedom, addressing global themes, experiences and perspectives, including but not limited the story of liberation in 1945. As the National Museum of World Cultures, with a collection representing diverse lifeworlds globally, we take freedom as a common universal human struggle, but one that takes different forms and which can be contested.

The programme may take up historical or contemporary topics, whether it be different forms of freedom within the colonial context, or contemporary struggles for freedom and liberty within times of war. Or, it could explore the freedom of expression, or freedom or rights to one’s culture within shifting multicultural polities.

5 May: Imagining Freedom

Coinciding with our recently opened exhibition focussed on Aleppo, this year’s Freedom is explored the relationship between freedom, imagination and hope in times of war. Museums, like artistic practices provide spaces for the imagination, where we can reflect on the world we share with others, to foster empathy and hope, and reflect on our relationship to the freedom of others. Together with artist Lina Issa, poet Ghayath Almadhoun, and academic AlHakam Shaar, we created a setting where food, poetry and activism, shaped and inspired our conversation, both in their form and content, about our freedom and that of others, globally. We explored: how do we imagine the future of a people in a country torn by war? What do we need to ‘step in the shoes of an ‘other’? When hope does not seem possible how do people hope for futures of freedom?


Specific foods and practices of eating were staged throughout the programme to highlight the theme while stimulating our senses and our imagination.

8:00-8:30 Arrival

8:30-8:40 Welcome

8:40-9:00 Lina Issa | Artist

9:00-9:20 Ghayath Almadhoun | Poet

9:20-09:40 AlHakam Shaar | The Aleppo Project

9:40-9:50 Ghayath Almadhoun | Poet

09:50- 10:15 book signing “Ik hier, jij daar” | Ghayath Almadhoun & Anne Vegter  | uitgeverij Jurgen Maas


Ghayath Almadhoun was born in the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk in Damascus to a Palestinian father and a Syrian mother. He studied Arabic literature at the University of Damascus and has worked as a cultural journalist. Together with Lukman Derky, he founded the Poetry House in 2006, and published two anthology of poems. Since 2008, Almadhoun has lived in Stockholm. There he wrote poems in Arabic, which have been published in Swedish in two collections. The second collection, Till Damascus, was written with the Swedish poet Marie Silkeberg. Many of Almadhoun's poems have been translated into German, Italian, Greek and Slovenian. His last bundle, La Astatee Alhoudour (I can not be present), came out in Beirut in 2014 and also contains poems from Weg van Damascus.

Alhakam Shaar is a Fellow in The Aleppo Project at the Centre for Conflict, Negotiation and Recovery (CCNR), Hungary. Before joining the Aleppo Project, he was a lecturer at Isik University in Istanbul, where he lived for three years. Alhakam Shaar witnessed the Syrian peaceful protest movement as it spiraled into a war that has claimed thousands of lives, displaced half the population, and devastated many cities, including his home city of Aleppo. As a child, he assisted his family in the intricate process of renovating a traditional house in Old Aleppo, and he became an active member of the Aleppo Citadel Friends Society and the al-Adiyat Archaeological Society, with whom he worked on projects that included the Digitizing of the Comparative Encyclopedia of Aleppo.

Lina Issa is a Lebanese artist who lives and works in Amsterdam. A graduate of the Graphic Design programme at the American University of Beirut (2002), Lina left Lebanon for a postgraduate research fellowship in Fine Arts at the Jan van Eyke Academy, Maastricht. She then earned a Masters in Visual Arts from the Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam. Since then she has worked alone and in collaboration with others, in a range of media, to explore the tensions between the personal and universal. As a immigrant to the Netherlands, her performative works is inspired by issues of place, otherness and cultural identity. Using ideas of physical displacement, Lina puts herself in situations that create the condition for the unfolding of new relationships.