donia salem and Maria Dumlao

Exploring Family and Home Through Games

Cross Pollination Residency: January 11-17, 2016


Joint interest in defining the meaning of “family” and “home” inspired donia salem harhoor, Adrienne Mackey, and Maria Dumlao to prototype a playable card game.

Maria is a visual media installation artist, donia is a classical Indian dancer and poet, and Adrienne is a theater-maker and voice expert. The intersection of these disciplines would certainly be an interesting exploration, but from their first meetings together, it was apparent that the trio was more drawn to explorations of content than art form. They spent their preliminary meetings talking about things like their family origins, impact of language and culture on familial relationships, and feelings about children.

When they dove into their Cross Pollination interdisciplinary residency together, this trend continued. Adrienne opened the conversation with a very open sharing of a complicated situation in her family life at the time, and her honesty and straightforwardness led the group to some powerful and intimate conversations about love in practice vs. the voiced sentiment of love, when compromise is necessary and when it goes too far, the gendered expectations of parenting, how parents and children impact one’s relationship to the world, and more. They tempered the seriousness with Eartha Kitt’s thoughts on compromise, sharing what kind of games and activities they play at home, and critiquing the cliche silhouettes and portraits that come up if you google “family.” More discussions explored how and if personal feelings or events show up in their artistic work and how art is often an avenue to indirectly express something from your life, sometimes without the artist planning or realizing it during the creation process.

Adrienne, donia, and Maria also noted that it’s rare for people to talk about family and personal issues as directly as they were doing together, particularly with the people involved in the situations. The earlier conversation about their families’ activities combined with the thought of art as an indirect expression of an idea inspired them to develop a game of their own as a way to offer a palatable and even playful way into challenging topics. The trio’s residency included playing a lot of existing games, sharing artistic inspirations, continuing conversations about family, and brainstorming many potential family event ideas. Over the course of the week, however, a core set of experiments led them towards a playable prototype. At the link below, you’ll get to learn all about their ingenious creation and how it came to be.

Family Game Development

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


donia salem’s work is driven by a desire to investigate how idendoniatity and experience are informed by place, language, lineage, migration, history, family, and gender. Exploring points of intersection, shared existential borders, and the metaphoric, allegoric, and choreographic embodiment of transitions between traditions inspires and informs her life and practices.

She was first drawn to the Classical Indian dance form of Odissi because of its sacred roots, shapes, and grace. salem is a student of internationally acclaimed dance guru, Durga Charan Ranbir, and works extensively with the virtuosic Rahul Acharya. Recent performances include Rivers Merge Festival, Divine Movement: An Evening of Sacred Dance at the Sheen Center in NYC, Facing East Festival at the Painted Bride, Koresh Dance’s Come Together Festival, Princeton University, Bard College, Kansas University, The FlynnSpace (Burlington, Vermont), Alvin Ailey, and the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts – with Rajika Puri as part of the World Music Foundation’s Dancing The Gods series.

In addition to being a conspirator/collaborator with her 8 year old cub, donia is co-director of The Outlet Dance Project – an annual festival of women choreographers and dance filmmakers at Grounds For Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ. She is a principal dancer and choreographer with Sakshi Productions, is honored to be part of the Brown Girl in the Ring Collective, and was a founding member of Kalamandir Dance Company.

donia has her MFA in Interdisciplinary Art from Goddard College.

Maria_11Maria Dumlao Born in Manila, Philippines, Maria Dumlao works in various media, including film, video, sound, photography, installation, and combined media.  Dumlao’s work has been exhibited, screened and performed locally, nationally, and internationally. She has been awarded residencies at Experimental Television Center in Owego, NY, and free103point9’s Wave Farm in Acra, NY. Her collaborative work with Brainstormers has appeared and screened at Brooklyn Museum of Art and Bronx Museum of Art (a collaboration with Guerilla Girls). Most recently, she’s done live-video performance with Chris Forsyth & the Solar Motel Band, and received a fellowship to participate in The Robert Flaherty Seminar 2015. She holds a BA in Studio Art / Art History from Rutgers College and an MFA in Studio Art at Hunter College-CUNY and is currently an Associate Professor at Bucks County Community College in Newtown, PA.




Documentation by Sam Wend
Photos by Adachi Pimentel