Vivien Sansour is an artist, storyteller, researcher and conservationist.
She uses image, sketch, film, soil, seeds, and plants to enliven old cultural tales in contemporary presentations and to advocate for the protection of biodiversity as a cultural and political act.
Vivien works with a global network of farmers and seed advocates to promote seed conservation and agrobiodiversity. As part of this effort, she founded the Palestine Heirloom Seed Library, with the goals of finding and reintroducing threatened crop varieties and to collect stories to assert the ownership of seeds by communities.
Vivien is an avid lover of nature and the arts. She has sprouted many projects out of the Palestine Heirloom Seed Library, including her co-founding of El Beir, Arts and Seeds studio in Bethlehem, the Traveling Kitchen project, and several other collaborative projects internationally. The Seed Library and its associated projects are now located in the village of Battir, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Palestine.
As an artist and sought-after speaker, Vivien has been invited to showcase her work at venues both locally and globally. These include the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Berlinale film festival in Berlin, and the Chicago Architecture Biennale. Her performance, Autonomia, was selected for the closing of the 2019 Venice Art Biennale.
A culinary historian and enthusiastic cook, Vivien wants to bring threatened varieties “back to the dinner table to become part of our living culture rather than a relic of the past”. This has led to collaborations with Dan Saladino from the BBC Food Program and internationally acclaimed chefs Anthony Bourdain, Sammi Tamimi and Tara Wigley.
While born in Jerusalem, Vivien was raised in both Beit Jala in Palestine and in the US, and proudly calls herself a PhD drop-out. She is currently a Harvard University fellow and is toiling on a biographical book that weaves together the stories of seeds with her own personal experiences in Palestine and abroad – both involving elements of challenge and triumph.
Vivien attributes her work to the generosity of farmers across the globe because they have “inspired my imagination as an artist and my ability to love science as a practice of observation that can change the world.”
Photo Credit: John Halaka