UCL Grand Challenges


Water Marks: Exploring Imagination, Storytelling Practices Amongst Women in East Jerusalem

Street in East Jerusalem

1 September 2021


Grant: Grand Challenges Doctoral Students' Small Grants
Year awarded: 2021-22
Amount awarded: £2,000

Project Team

  • Emilie Glazer, Anthropology
  • Jumana Emil Abboud, Slade School of Fine Art

The objectives of Water Marks: Exploring imagination, storytelling practices and orientations towards the future amongst women in East Jerusalem are to:

  1. Understand and document women’s relationship to the springs and its stories, as part of the neighbourhood’s cultural heritage
  2. Use participatory research and art-based methods to overcome possible barriers to imagination and storytelling to safeguard women's heritage
  3. Support women’s creative skills through a collaborative research project
  4. Establish a rewarding space of shared values towards questions of justice and equality.
  5. Create a space in which the women’s stories and the story of water - past, present and future are given visibility on a local, regional, and international level
  6. Open the possibilities for ongoing collaborations to solve challenges of justice in Jerusalem from the ground-up

Working in collaboration with the Bustan Association in Silwan, East Jerusalem, the team implemented a project about storytelling, imagination, water and the future with a group of twenty women from the neighbourhood. Nestled within the association’s summer camp programme, we activated a series of activities and facilitated discussions over the course of eight days, spread out over a two-week period. The activities involved a combination of visits to sites where the presence of water was important for local cultural heritage (for the women in particular), and creative practices at the community centre in response to the visits. Visits included the village of Lifta, the spring of Silwan, and the natural spa waters near Nablus. Creative practices involved collective storytelling, printmaking, and embroidery. At each, the activities were guided by the women’s reflections, and by the stories that they wanted to share and tell.  

The funding enabled the seeds of early collaboration to be developed into a full programme for the Bustan Association summer school, to deepen relationships with the community centre and the women from Silwan, and to bring to fruition initial experiments from the previous summer. 

Outputs and Impact

  • Co-creation and delivery of summer school