Terrain: Photos by Vivien Sansour


27 July – 19 August 2012


Vivien Sansour


a photography exhibit and food tasting

More than a romantic idea, Palestinians’ cultivation of their land contains the seeds of resistance. Walk the fields through Vivien Sansour’s photographs, experience this relationship of farmer to land, see how the old ways of planting and harvesting, of cooking the old recipes, form an historical continuum, the fruits of their labors feeding the body and the soul of Palestine today.

Vivien Sansour combines stunning large format images of Palestinian farmland with portraits of individual farmers. In addition, she showcases a film on the traditional method of making apricot jam, and includes photographic recipe cards. During the opening, end-use products from the farmers harvests, such as tapenade, sun dried tomatoes, maftoul and za’atar, along with flavored olive oils, were available for tasting and purchase.

Vivien’s comments from the opening reception:

Scenes from the exhibit:


Tatleh El Mishmish El Baladi

apricot jam vivien sansourThe Apricot (El Mishmish) is considered a unique and cherished fruit in Palestine. The baladi variety, which is the native mistikawi, is the Mediterranean’s most loved fruit.

The apricot season, usually between the end of May and the beginning of June, is one of the most beautiful seasons when people welcome summer with this delightful fruit. However, the season of el mistikawi mishmish is very short (only two weeks). This is why when we expect a promise not to be kept, we say, “Fi el mishmish,” which means “in the apricot season.” (An equivalent saying in English is “when pigs fly”…)

One of the most delicious mishmish recipes is the “Tatleh Mishmish” (apricot jam) and Beit Jala, my hometown, is the most famous for it! In addition to its beautiful color, these Mediterranean apricots have tremendous nutritional value particularly because they are a great source of Vitamin A and fiber.

Tatleh Mishmish Recipe:

After picking the apricots, wash them in a big pot and then break them in half taking the pits out. Save the pits because you will need them later!

Weigh the apricots. For every 3 kilograms of apricots, add 2 kilograms of sugar. Leave it overnight soaking in the sugar in a container. Cover the container with a cloth.

The next day, place the soaked apricots in a large pot on the stove at low temperature. You must keep stirring every fifteen minutes for 3 hours.

While the apricots are cooking, crack the pits and boil the apricot seeds in water. This will make peeling the brown skin on the seeds easy. Once you have a good portion of peeled seeds, add them to the cooking jam. It is important that the jam is cooked for a long time so that when preserved it will not go bad.

To check if your jam is ready and well cooked, put a little bit on a plate. Run your fingers through it. If the spread does not come back together then the jam is cooked enough. Turn heat off. Cover the pot and leave it till the next day.

Prepare clean dry jars and put the jam in them when it is cool, preferably the next day. Add a drop of olive oil on the surface of each jar then seal the jar. This will guarantee a fresh tasting Tatleh Mishmish all year round!

Sahtain– in good health! 
Vivien Sansour

Vivien Sansur apricots


Meet the Artist

Vivien Sansour portrait
Vivien Sansour

A Palestinian photographer and writer who was living in Los Angeles, Vivien Sansour was pulled back to her homeland, and her village of Beit Jala, while she was photographing and profiling farmers for Canaan Fair Trade.  The livelihoods of these farming communities, which are preserving ancient methods of cultivation, are being threatened not only by agribusiness but also by forces that aim to dilute their identities to become a community of unknowns.

Vivien’s portraits, displayed here at the Gallery and in her Canaan Fair Trade book “Palestine, Insisting on Life, A Community at Work,” vividly tell their individual stories and put a face to Palestinian agriculture.  In the process, Vivien took up her own family’s farmlands and now she grows apricots and almonds.  She has made a film for us about the abundance and diversity of food in Palestine, showcasing people making and producing food, including traditional products. (Vivien has given us the recipe for Um Hassan’s apricot jam which is on our website, along with images of her exhibit, Terrain.)

In her role as a film producer, Vivien has most recently worked on the film “The People and the Olive” with director Aaron Dennis and Jacob Wheeler, documenting the story of 15 American runners who ran 129 miles across the West Bank to raise awareness about the plight of Palestinian farmers.