SEED :: Mountain Beyond Mountains:
2019 Ghetto Biennial
Katelyn Alexis + Getho Jean Baptiste + Wesner Bazile + Rossi Jacques Casimir + Noel Edgard aka Papouche + Lee Lee + Mimi Sheller + moira williams
We are exploring historic connections between Maine and Haiti with a series of workshops and performances; looking at the entangled mobilities between plant-human and non-human relationships held sacred by indigenous communities. We will consider the role plants played through the Haitian revolution and how plant-based practices in both geographies may inform each other as we navigate our way through food sovereignty, sacred/medicinal relationships and rewilding
efforts. We are interested in counterpractices that push against industrial agriculture and hybrid seeds.
I :: White Pines from Dawnland
The tall, straight trunks of Maine’s white pine trees were marked and severed from the landscape by French settlers to build ships that carried lumber to Haiti. Hawthorn trees were equally struck from the land, stripped of their thorns then used as nails in the same ships to Haiti (Hawthorne is resistant to rot unlike pine). Both Pine and Hawthorne trees carry sacred/medicinal relationships with indigenous people. Additionally, both trees were used to construct plantations that in turn,
served as frameworks against which the Haitian revolution took place.
Our project begins with tracing the ghosts of White Pine and Hawthorn trees. We will travel rural areas to find their traces, look at the functional differences between in-tact plantation grounds
versus fragmented land passed down equally through generations of families after the revolution. We will connect these ghosts to the sacred/medicinal microgardens found in the pots and doorways
of Port-Au-Prince through recorded conversations, knowledge sharing and movement.
II :: Mountains beyond Mountains
The indigenous Arawak people met the first free Africans in Ayiti (Haiti), during the 1800’s. Ayiti means ‘mountains beyond mountains’ an expression from and of the land. Both cultures recognized
one another’s interconnected, sacred relationships with the land. As a result, the Arawak shared their knowledge of the land and the medicinal qualities found in Haiti’s endemic plants with the Africans. Plant, food and soil knowledge continues to be cultivated, interwoven with multiple cultural nuances, as interventions of restoration and liberation throughout the tightest corners of urban Port-Au-Prince. These same plants are grown in microgardens around the Grand Rue.
III :: Control
Moringa trees provided Haitians essential nutrients during the petrol revolts this year. Moringas were brought to Haiti from Africa as seeds and thrive in areas where little else can grow. We will plant more Moringa trees, save their seeds to establish a nutrient dense Grand Rue – if you control food, you control people.
Confronting the failures of our work in the previous biennales, we will install a functioning SEED library at SAKALA. They have the capacity for preservation and are interested in seed saving due to food security threats from hybridization. Informed by the progress of SEED work in Maine with the Halcyon Grange and Blue Hill Heritage Trust, we will call on Haitian organizations to maintain a preservation ring. Potential SEED library branches AJDHVD network of school gardens, Minister of
the Environment, Botanic Gardens, SOIL & Lambi Fund farmer networks.
IV :: Restoration
In response to concerns that urban youth are being severed from the land, traditional plant, soil, health and cultural knowledge, we will weave aspects of re-wilding into our SEED work to promote
a whole-body ecologic revolution. We will do this with seed saving workshops and a combined art, citizen science, movement
workshops in the Grand Rue and SAKALA (SAKALA has a “wild” field). We will provide a school bus and invite the Grand Rue TiMoun to participate.
SEED :: disperse | Haiti
2017 Ghetto Biennial
Two years after installing pocket gardens in the previous biennial, we were able to examine the gardens of the Grand Rue to assess what plants thrived. We used what we learned in growing plants in a heavily populated area of the city to apply what worked to the areas that did not fare as well. In response to an aggressive program to hybridize Haitian heirloom seeds, we started weaving a network of SEED Stewards across the urban areas of Port Au Prince in order to preserve open source access to traditional seed stock while providing a continued connection to the natural world for urban youth. The Biennial installation included the development of a SEED Sensorium created in collaboration with local youth as well as a collaborative installation with Jean Claude Santillus curated from seed related art works created by members of the Atis Rezistans collective.
Jean Claude Santillus plants a coco seed in his Lakou along the Grand Rue of Port-Au-Prince. Photo by Rossi Jacques Casimir