Creative Dundee

Blog: Botanical Migrations

“It’s healing. People need the healing power of nature.” ~ Alexander (The Maxwell Centre)

Our blog series regularly invites guests to share their thoughts on different aspects of life in Dundee, their own practice, and anything in between. This blog comes from Elizabeth Kwant and her collaborators in the new Sharing Not Hoarding exhibition.

During the depths of winter (and a national lockdown) Manchester based artist Elizabeth Kwant worked remotely with Manuela De Los Rios (The Maxwell Centre) and Helena Simmons (Ninewells Garden) in Dundee to gather personal stories and recipes from gardeners. These recipes have one thing in common – all the produce is locally grown or foraged – from Coriander, Pumpkin, Beetroot, Tomatoes, Garlic, Elderflower, Mushrooms, Sweetcorn, Dandelion, Peppers, Courgette, Tomatillo, Green Beans, Sloe Berries, Rhubarb to Fenugreek. These ‘Botanical Migrations’ informed a series of repeat pattern posters, incorporating delicate drawings with traditional tile patterns to create a series of 16 brightly coloured posters, currently installed in Sesslor Gardens until 26th March.

The project bears testimony to the diversity of Dundee’s inhabitants – embedding the migration of plants and people into the fabric of the prints with recipes coming from places as far apart as France, Spain, Ukraine, Poland, Argentina, USA, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Scotland.

“At home I make syrup with herbs I dry, pickle vegetables and flowers, I have a little home “herbapol” (herbalist)” ~ Urszula

“I loved going to the pumpkin patch as a kid and choosing the one I’d carve. I look forward to Autumn rolling around when pumpkin pies, cakes, breads, and even ice cream are readily available. It’s a piece of home, my childhood.” ~ Tess

“It’s healing. People need the healing power of nature” ~ Alexander & Caroline

“I had cancer and it was really bad, I really thought I wouldn’t get through it, I was on morphine for severe pain. It changes your life, I realised I wanted to give back to the community.” ~ Gibby

“I absolutely love this piece, it takes me right back to my grandma Carman’s kitchen in Malaga who taught me to shop for fruit and veg at the market and cook” ~ Manuela

“My favourite place in the garden is the polytunnel, I love seeing all the different names, colours and shapes of tomatoes… I’ve just started to grow edibles. I didn’t have the confidence before” ~ Farzana

“I came to Dundee to be a French assistant for 10 months, 4 years later I am still enjoying Bonnie Dundee! When I arrived, I took the bus from the airport and I remember being amazed by the quantity of hazel trees and sheep. Despite Brexit being voted on the same year, I felt really welcome.”  ~ Nadege

“I always feel that I am important here.” ~ Gisela (speaking about the Maxwell Garden)

“I imagine myself falling asleep under an elder tree in full bloom and being invited into the world of the fairies where I would get protection from all the evil spirits! What great things happen when we open our mind to spaces and places and we connect with nature.” ~ Mary

The project touches upon so many important and timely issues: food security, environmental sustainability, wellbeing, migration, cultural diversity and inclusivity to name a few. Growing your own food can become an act of resistance – cultivating the land, maintaining one’s own culture in the face of hostile environments and repressive immigration policies. Gardening, as many of the participants testify, can also be deeply therapeutic. There’s a wonderful feeling of community at the Maxwell Community Garden and Ninewells Community Garden. People just love being there. They’re not only producing food to eat. They also want to give back to the community. There’s diversity, inclusivity, mutual encouragement, a sense of wellbeing, and a sustainable way of living being explored.

Botanical Migrations is on show in Sesslor Gardens until the 26th March. The exhibition was produced in partnership with The Maxwell Community Garden and Ninewells Community Garden. It was commissioned and curated by Sharing Not Hoarding.

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