El Warcha – meaning “the workshop” in Arabic – opened its doors in 2016 in the Medina, the old town, of Tunis. Its goal is to foster collective action and learning by developing art installations and furniture for public spaces.
El Warcha initially focused on devising practical elements with local residents of all ages, designing and building planters, play structures, bins, or lighting. With time, the collective developed alternative pedagogical methods based around participatory design, intended to allow for mutual growth and to reimagine our living environment. El Warcha thus grew into a space for collective movement between discussion and making. By favoring experimentation as a form of reflection and knowledge exchange, the aim is to put everyone on equal footing, for example through conceiving intuitive assembly techniques that do not necessitate prior technical mastery and using commonly available material to allow everyone to test ideas and make prototypes, but also to fail and start over.
In 2018, El Warcha began expanding, as some of its team members moved abroad. The first workshop outside of Tunisia was founded in London, followed by others establishing roots in Lisbon, Davis, and Nefta, in the Tunisian desert. El Warcha grew organically through this international multiplication, forming an engaged community that shares a common vision despite the distance and the diversity of contexts. The challenges of organizing across borders and experiential divides regularly bring about points of convergence between these trans-local realities.