Mountains Beyond Mountains

Restoration Liberation
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.

SEED Barn - Blue Hill Falls, Maine
The SEED Barn was crafted by boat builder, John Cheever in 1835. Here it is seen with a schooner under construction in mulatamicuwon, now known as Conary Cove in Blue Hill, Maine

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.

2019 installation:
Accidental Migrants

2019 Ghetto Biennale: THE HAITIAN REVOLUTION & BEYOND

2020 update

Because of the revolts over the course of 2019, we decided to elongate this effort by drawing out programming to support workshops on a month to month basis. We started with open source images of Ruby-throated hummingbirds & cedar waxwings printed for the installation for the 2019 Biennial. Both birds are considered ‘accidental migrants’ from the northeast. The woodworking community that makes up Lakou Basile are carving representations of these photographs on a workshop platform with neighborhood youth to learn relationships of flowers with pollinating hummingbirds & fruit dispersal through birds. The woodblocks will be sent to the SEED Barn and used to demonstrate printing techniques of Ukiyo-e style of woodblock printing during the 2020 season. In hopes this exchange ignites consideration of the ecologic and historic geographic relationships we maintain with lands which host migratory wildlife enjoyed throughout the Maritime region during the summer.

Sea Shanties & SEED Stories


Celebrating the new gardens designed and built by Lee Lee at the Pendleton House, they set the stage for a display of Haitian artworks and maritime paintings during first Blue Hill Maritime Heritage Festival. In consideration of the historic use of the building to house sailors who needed temporary housing between seafaring journeys, garden plants were chosen because they were considered important enough for early settlers to bring with them across the sea. The plant collection will comprise a collection of tea and medicinal plants tended in these early colonial ‘medicine chests’.

In tandem with exploring what plants arrived here, we are considering the severance of the landscape for the raw materials that became the foundations for colonialism. What systems were set in place that still exist today? What are the long term social impacts experienced by indigenous populations in the Penobscot region as well as the Caribbean and African regions? How is indigenous practice informing the healing of these lands?

Featuring custom painted Maritime Chests and Historical Signs by Robert Jarvis Leonard III, the garden installation included crafts from Indian Island by Penobscot linguist Carol Dana and a selection of Haitian sculptures that offer a poignant reflection of the backwaters of (im)mobilities. An interactive component will invite visitors to share stories of their own relationship with plants and migrations.

Through the festival, songs of the sea will be sung both in the gardens and along the sea across the street at Emerson park. Bring an instrument and join in this Cèilidh style gathering.