Gardens Speak

“even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he wins.”
-Walter Benjamin

Across Syria, many gardens conceal the dead bodies of activists and protesters who adorned the streets during the early periods of the uprising. These domestic burials play out a continuing collaboration between the living and the dead. The dead protect the living by not exposing them to further danger at the hands of the regime. The living protect the dead by conserving their identities, telling their stories, and not allowing their deaths to become instruments to the regime.

Gardens Speak is an interactive sound installation containing the oral histories of ten ordinary people who were buried in Syrian gardens. Each narrative has been carefully constructed with the friends and family members of the deceased to retell their stories as they themselves may have recounted it. They are compiled with found audio that evidences their final moments.


“Art is supposed to be universal – and there is no more universal thing than fear of death. Or grief. In Gardens Speak, out of the most specific experience, Tania El Khoury crafts something massive.” Paul Mason, Channel 4

“This piece will change the way you think.” What’s on Stage

“Eerily absorbing.”  Evening Standard

“A stark, moving theater piece by Tania El Khoury, brings us into painful intimacy with the human cost of the war.” The New York Times

“One of the most uniquely individual and profound theatrical experiences in recent memory.”  Edge Media Network



Shortlisted, Artraker Award, 2014
Artsadmin Artist Bursary Scheme, 2013

Previews Shows:

Philadelphia: ear-whispered: works by Tania El Khoury, 6-23 September 2018
Galway: Galway Festival, 23-29 July 2018
Abu Dhabi: NYUAD, 27 April- 3 May 2018
Miami: MDC Live Arts, Miami Art Basel, 6-9 December 2017
Boston: Emerson Paramount Center, 8-19 November 2017
Belfast: Belfast International Festival, 6-28 October 2017
Trento: Centrale Fies, 25-29 July 2017
Tallinn: SAAL Biennaal, 19-23 August 2017
Brussels: Moussem, 3-10 February 2017
Oslo: Kulturkirken Jacob, 23 Feb-6 March 2017
Adelaide: Adelaide Festival, 4-18 March 2017
Douai: TANDEM Scène Nationale, 13-18 March 2017
New York: Under The Radar, 6-9 January 2017
Ljubljana: City Of Women, 12-15 October 2016
Marseille: Festival de Marseille, 30 June-16 July 2016
Fribourg: Belluard Festival, 23-26 June 2016
Amsterdam: Holland Festival, 16-19 June 2016
Athens: Fast Forward Festival, 25-30 May 2016
Beirut: Spring Festival, 3-8 May 2016
Cairo: D-Caf Festival, 15-18 April 2016
Washington DC: Building Museum, 7-13 April 2016
London: Battersea Arts Centre, 2-19 March 2016
Lancaster: Festival of Questions, 4-6 February 2016
Munich: Spielart Festival, 23 Oct – 1 Nov 2015
Bucharest: BEAR Festival, 16 October 2015
Edinburgh: Forest Fringe, 26-30 August 2015
Birmingham: Fierce Festival,2-5, 9-12 Oct 2014
Melbourne: Next Wave Festival, 1-4, 7-11 May 2014
London: Artsadmin, 5-6 March 2014


Production Manager: Jessica Harrington
Production Assistant and Audience Guide: Naya Salamé
Research Assistant and Writer (Arabic): Keenana Issa
Calligraphy and Tombstones Design: Dia Batal
Set Design: Abir Saksouk
Sound Recording & Editing: Khairy Eibesh (Stronghold Sound)
English Translation: Ziad Abu-Rish
Set Construction (in London): SPLEX Flexible Designs & Presentation

Co-commissioned by Fierce Festival (UK) and Next Wave Festival (Australia.) Developed through the Artsadmin Artists’ Bursary Scheme. Supported by Arts Council of England.