Makan, a pivot

As we say goodbye to Makan; the art space that has become the home outside our homes in a vastly changing city, I’d like to share my own Makan story.

DISCLAIMER: I could be accused of being biased, as I consider the members of team Makan to be my closest friends, yet as you give this a time to read I hope you will get to celebrate the space and the memories with me.

A bit of context firstAmman: ever changing, ever evolving, a city of immigrants, a city where old is only a 100 years old, where new is the norm, where beginnings are everywhere, where labs of all kinds import, brew and bring new experiences to it’s inhabitants.

2003: A new art space is open, in the art center of the city, Jabal Elweibdeh, on the same street where the well established arts & culture institution Darat al Funun resides. Ola becomes the new kid on the block, my close friend Alma is excited to have me go there and meet Ola. When Alma is excited about some place or someone you know there is a lot of substance involved and you can’t just ignore the invitation. I meet Makan, I meet Ola, we become instant friends and my attachment to Makan only begins around the same time I take a big career move and start working around the corner.

2004: Diala my closest of friends comes back to town, she gets hooked to Makan. When Diala can’t stop talking about a place or a person, you’ll instantly know that they’re open and free.

Makan screens a documentary I made, where the sound was way messed up, yet the crowed endured and gave me a lot of encouragement.

The members of the Makan family grow year in and year out. I meet artists that redefined what art meant to me then. You get exhibitions and events you’d never think you’d experience here in the city and Makan quickly becomes a pivot within the arts & culture scene as it defines a new era.

I use the word pivot because it took us from the typical ecosystem of artists, curators and collectors and introduced new forms of art that were not typically experienced in the city.

Soon Makan connects Amman with the more mature art scenes in the region and starts acquiring regional acclaim and soon after that international as well.

Makan challanged taboos, celebrated what many call mundane, featured artists that came to tell a heartfelt story and many many more.

Makan introduced us to Shatana in 2007, a lovely northern town where we went for three executive years to see the work of groups of artists who came there to create. For me, it was the event that touched me the most, the drive there, the town and the artists & their work were all part of a magical experience for me. Shatana was the project where the Makan Collective started to form by Ola, Diala and Samah as they continued to run the space together till date.

In 2009, Ahmad, my business partner and I help Makan create a new website, Roba, Yasmeen and Emad get excited designing and working on the website.

In 2008/2009 Makan was generous to host the meetings between three groups of queer women, from Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan; that in my opinion started the seeds of a regional queer movement that spans to date. It’s openness attitude has helped several local queer inititatives meet and connect and just be.

When the Arab Spring/Awakening stromed the region in 2011, Makan was at the center of it when it hosted several hashtag debates that were organized by 7iber discussing talk-of-the-hour topics.

Moreover, Makan incubated the early days of several local inititives that are now standing brands by themselves like 7iber and Taghmees.

I personally believe the spirit of diversity, openness and freedom are the values that made me and many others call Makan home.

One trip down memory lane that I needed to document and share.

It will most definitly be a tougher Amman without Makan in it, yet I like to think that more spaces adopt the spirit of this iconic journey and truely understand what celebrating openness, freedom of expression and diversity really means.

Razan Khatib

Razan Khatib

Playing at the intersection of culture, technology, and values. Trying to structure my thoughts and share experiences, learnings, and insights. Co-founder of @spring_apps
Amman, Jordan