26 February 2024–26 February 2025

This Is Not Your Grave

Dima Srouji

Part of Alserkal Art Week

Starts 26 February 2024

Ends 26 February 2025

Venue The Yard


This Is Not Your Grave delves into the architectural shortcomings that have failed to protect its users. The ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people in Gaza serves as a poignant reminder that architecture has deviated from its core purpose in serving as a shelter. In times of desperation, everyday elements such as tunnels, bathtubs, and staircases are repurposed as makeshift sanctuaries. Tunnels become spaces of resistance, bathtubs offer shelter to sleeping children, and staircases transform into impromptu libraries during the night. This project celebrates these instances where silence and safety briefly converge, demonstrating how architecture can be employed to pass the time.

The installation serves as a stage set, allowing architecture to reemphasize its fundamental values and create spaces for the Alserkal community to gather in moments of grief, mourning, joy, and around visions of liberation. The tunnel, stair, and bathtub evoke emotions of joy, cleansing, shedding, and provide a glimpse of liberation through their simple forms that offer a sense of security. These structures become what Ugo La Pietra describes as "spaces of decompression," where design becomes a tool for releasing tension.

The three shelters are organised around different sensory experiences they activate. These programmes include a library beneath the staircase, a sanctuary within the bathtub, and a hearth inside the tunnel. These shelters will be brought to life in Alserkal through a series of events in collaboration with performers, chefs, and members of the Palestinian diaspora residing in Dubai. The installations also welcome spontaneous gatherings and brief encounters with passersby and the Alserkal community, encouraging visitors to transition from one shelter to the next.

Each structure is a slightly different shade of purple while the interiors are a rich crimson, referencing the contrasting palettes and complex symbolism of Palestinian clothing. During rituals around marriage and mourning, clothes would be dyed red, blue or purple through the rites of marriage, childbirth and mourning.

The title of the installation comes from a verse in a Darwish poem titled “I didn’t apologize to the well…”

I didn’t apologize to the well as I passed by it.
I borrowed a cloud from an ancient pine and squeezed it
like an orange. I waited for a mythical white deer.
I instructed my heart in patience: Be neutral, as though
you were not a part of me. Here, good shepherds
stood on air and invented the flute and enticed
mountain partridges into their traps. Here, I saddled
a horse for flight to my personal planets, and flew.
And here, a fortuneteller told me: Beware of asphalt roads
and automobiles, ride on your sigh. Here, I loosened
my shadow and waited. I selected the smallest stone
and stood wakefully by it. I broke apart a myth
and got broken myself. I circled the well until
I flew out of myself to what I’m not. And a voice
from deep in the well spoke to me: This grave
is not yours. And so I apologized. I read verses
from the wise Qur’an and said to the anonymous presence
in the well: Peace be with you and the day
you were killed in the land of peace and with the day
you’ll rise from the well’s darkness
and live…

About the Artist

Dima Srouji is an architect and visual artist exploring the ground as a deep space of rich cultural weight. Srouji looks for potential ruptures in the ground where imaginary liberation is possible. She works with glass, text, archives, maps, plaster casts, and film, understanding each as an evocative object and emotional companion that helps her question what cultural heritage and public space mean in the larger context of the Middle East and a focused lens on Palestine. Her projects are developed closely with archaeologists, anthropologists, sound designers, and glassblowers.

Srouji was 2022-2023 Jameel Fellow at the Victoria & Albert Museum and is currently teaching the MA City Design studio Underground Palestine at the Royal College of Art in London. Her work is part of the permanent collections at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Victoria & Albert Museum, Institut du Monde Arabe, Corning Museum of Glass and TBA21.