Friday, June 12, 2015

Creatively Re-Storying our Seeds at |UN|silo|ED| SeedBroadcast

Drawing boards and seed swap in SeedBroadcast |UN|silo|ED hub at SFAI
One of our goals for being a part of the Santa Fe Art Institute’s Food Justice Residency program is our desire to literally unsilo the creative potential of people and seeds as they come together in a dance of interdependency to nurture one another. In this, we want to take the long view. To step back and recognize not the specifics of each piece in this puzzle, rather, to take a gander at what is in between, what is shared at the edges, and what is generated when the unexpected becomes "the between" and enacts forms of food justice.

The title of this in-process project has been |UN|silo|ED and so far it has been extraordinary as we have had the opportunity to share the incredible wealth of what we do SeedBroadcasting, as well as invite many others to jump in and contribute their own projects, processes, thoughts, and ideas at this critical moment of climate change and global/local food crisis....and we'll have more on this in an upcoming blog.

May 16th workshop with Rowen White in the SeedBroadcast |UN|silo|ED hub at SFAI

As part of our residency we decided to create an event that would bring together seed keepers, locavores, activists, performers, artists, and agri-Culture junkies to celebrate seeds through ritual. By using the word ritual we mean to acknowledgement that having a relationship with seeds, food, and each other IS about becoming deeply planted in a daily practice of knowledge and action. There can be no one without the other. We each must plant a seed, harvest its generosity, and perform this with others. This is ritual.

With this in mind on May 16th, in collaboration with Rowen White of Sierra Seeds, Rulan Tangen of Dancing Earth, and Santa Fe Art Institute, we organized an event to celebrate this seedy process. The day included a Seed Saving workshop, potluck lunch, series of performances, seed blessing, and seed swap.

Seeds and food to share

The morning workshop, led by Rowen White, brought seed people in from all over the region, from Fort Sumner, Aztec, Mancos, Truth or Consequence, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, and Santa Fe. Rowen is a Mohawk seed keeper, teacher, farmer, and writer and she brought all these together to share with the group as a space to cultivate the creative re-storying of seeds in our lives. She began where all things begin, in the seed and in her inspiration to become a seed keeper with both deep cultural ties to Mohawk traditions and a bioregional commitment to an indigenous permaculture rooted in place of the northern California mountains. Beginning with intention, her presentation took us from the personal to the political and back again, where she reminded us that “seeding the revolution” means changing the paradigm of our relationship to life through growing familial connections of reciprocity and mutual benefit to rebuild and cultivate an ethic within a living context. It is all about seeds.

Rowen White during the seed saving workshop
Seed naming game

Rowen and her incredible seed assistant, Maize (her daughter), then led the group through a naming game, where we each enjoyed holding seeds and making guesses as to their names. This game brought everyone together to look and listen with a seed geeks pleasure at all the diversity of shape, color, size, and potential. We then shifted gears and walked to the SeedBroadcast space in the Lumpkin room to shout out intentions for seeding our own revolutions. Here is the incredible list generated as we wrote these words down on the Justice board and declared our thoughts on Food Justice:

Our right as humans to have access to food that is nutritious and able to sustain a healthy life
Return Home
Hunter/Gatherer Instincts
Loss of Biodiversity
Solidarity with our home
Art of Germination
Back to our roots
Reclaiming diversity
food as medicine
returning home
no pesticides
no Monsanto

After a very fruitful morning discussing the origins of sustenance we had the tremendous pleasure to share the cycle of seed as a glorious bounty of nutritious, delicious, diverse, and reverently rooted food. POTLUCK! There is something very special in cooking for others and then sharing this process through the ritual tasting of life. Like so many shouted out, this is an act of love. During this time together we sat huddled in circles and spent time learning about and cherishing one another while seed dances and music filled the space.

Potluck straight from the farm...Photo by Genevieve Russell
Blessings of seed, the proof is on the plate. Photo by Genevieve Russell

This love just keeps on giving, but it does not come without reciprocity. Commitment. During the remaining time Rowen returned to the idea of what each of us has to do in order to take part in seed saving and take part in the wonderment of botanical processes. And, if you didn’t know it before, you are going to know it now, and you might blush, cause it’s all about sex and as Rowen puts it, “the kinship of plants.” But she also pointed out something crucial. It’s not just about the plants in an intertwining closed-loop of intimate desire. This process is also about us and the living context that we stimulate in our gardens and on our farms, as well as, the ever-changing environmental conditions that we have no control over. If we truly want to grow bioregionally adapted seeds and rebuild a resilient local foodshed that can take on the challenges of global climate change, then we need to be committed. Even in the smallest way, committing to one type of plant, we need commitment to do it and do it ritually year after year, reclaiming the ways of not so long ago. The results are brilliant.

Demonstration on the ease of putting your foot down and cleaning beans!

What are we swapping for these magic seeds? Time and thoughtful action… and most probably many failures and successes along the way. To really root our seeds at home and cultivate familial connections. Rowen calls this the 7th Generation. Usually we hear this term as it pertains to the future and our commitment to make decisions and act on them because they will affect our children’s children’s children. But what she is talking about is another sort of time. Not the future, rather the present past, the living past as it is growing year after year in the cycle of life preparing for the present. Every year a seed is saved and replanted it grows its own memory, which engenders it with strength, knowledge, and a desire to be at home. By the 7th generation of saving, planting, growing, and harvesting these seeds they have come home. At home in place and prepared to be a part of this particular dynamic econiche. This is where our stories merge with the stories of the seeds.

Photo by, Genevieve Russell

Stories are the creative expression of these relationships, of coming home, being rooted, struggling for survival, and cycling back again into the earthly depths of the soil. During our closing circle of the workshop Rowen taught us to sing an Anishanaabe seed song. She pointed out that many seed songs come from birth songs. They are tied to the cycles of life.

The re-storying of our relationships with seeds involve each of us in our own creative ways. There is no one story to follow, there are only stories to be grown, shared, and realized in context with life. Following this desire in the power of seeds to inspire, the day was concluded with an amazing series of creative performative responses curated by Rulan Tangen of Dancing Earth Contemporary Indigenous dance Creations. Below are images and statements from these artists, discussing some of their working concepts and processes.

Corn Maiden, performance. Photo by Nicole Davis/SFAI

Video Projection ( 12:49:04) with Performance by Rulan Tangen
Collaboration Marion Wasserman + Rulan Tangen © 2014

"A video and dance collaboration about the ancestry of seeds and the lineage of corn. Generations have planted these seeds providing food and nourishment in the high desert for thousands of years. Numerous rows of dancing corn have been cultivated each keeping the genetic information, the nourishment and the ritual alive. This dance and video reflects this legacy as a rhythm of life and the repetition of cycles weaving life and culture and prayer."

Tohil Fidel Brito Bernal and María Regina Firmino-Castillo. Photo by Nicole Davis/SFAI
B’eluval Aama (Ajmaq): Performative response by Tohil Fidel Brito Bernal and María Regina Firmino-Castillo
B’eluval Aama (Ajmaq): Performative response by Tohil Fidel Brito Bernal and María Regina Firmino-Castillo. Photo by Nicole Davis/SFAI

B’eluval Aama (Ajmaq)
Performative response by Tohil Fidel Brito Bernal and María Regina Firmino-Castillo

"B’eluval Aama is the name of the day in the Ixil Maya ritual calendar: B’eluval (9) is the number of the day, and Aama is the name of the energy (yooxhil; tichiil) that corresponds to the day. It is a propitious day to reflect on one’s responsibility for wrongs committed against one’s family, community, and the Earth and the various entities with in it with which one must live in rec- iprocity and mutual care and respect. The action was enacted with this in mind. It was an op- portunity for us — performers and “audience” — to reflect on our relative levels of complicity and responsibility for the destruction of ancestral maize and the often simultaneous genocide of peoples of maize; in other words: indigenous communities from South, Central, and North Amer- ica who have cultivated maize for millennia."

"An important element in the performative action was a round mirror upon which the Mayan glyph representing the day Aama was drawn. Holding this mirror, Tohil, through the Aama in- scribed in the mirror, saluted the 6 directions (each cardinal direction, plus Earth and Sky). Tohil greeted each of these directions in Ixil Maya while María performed movements which both re- flected and embodied the characteristics of each direction."

"Tohil then turned to the South, the cardinal direction associated with the day Aama, and recited an invocation of the day in Ixil. Then María, turning to the South, read aloud translations of the invocation in Spanish and English before giving Tohil the text she read from."

"The following part of the performative action consisted of María reciting 13 names of genetically modified corn, one by one, while presenting the mirror before the faces of audience members. Audience members face the mirror with the glyph Aama, taking a moment to reflect on their re- sponsibility in the face of the disaster represented by the biotech industry. They also see their faces transformed by the glyph; the day’s yooxhil and their own yooxhil merge, as it were, in the performative moment of encounter."

"After an audience member gazed into the mirror, Tohil approached, reciting a name of maize in an Indigenous language, and offering ancestral seeds to the audience member. He repeated this action 13 times, reciting 13 Indigenous names of maize in response to each GMO corn that María named."

After these actions, María fixes her gaze onto the mirror. With a macaw feather, Tohil interrupts her gaze and they rise up together. Tohil cleans the mirror with the macaw feather while María recites a text written by Jakaltek Mayan poet and anthropologist Victor Montejo during Guatemala’s genocidal war:"

“a pesar de que se intente olvidar sus nombres
poco a poco,
yo sé que flores silvestres siguen brotando diariamente de sus huesos clandestinos,”
alla en barrancos y montanas.”

“Even though they try to make us forget their names, little by little,
I know that wildflowers
continue to grow from their clandestine bones over there, in the mountains and gorges.”

The mirror is then gifted to Seed Saver Rowen White for the work she conducts to preserve the vitality of ancestral seeds and our peoples…."

Molly Rose and Karina Wilson, honoring the water
Trey Pickett
Molly Rose and Suzanne Teng,
microbial growth/embracing the mystery/northern energy,
with recitation of "In the Beginning", a Poem by Jahan Khalighi
Israel Fransisco Haros Lopez
Echo Gustafsen
Cami Leonard, SEED, an interactive installation

At the very end of these performances, Madi Sato led all in a seed blessing, singing an ancient Japanese Seed Song as we gathered in two concentric patterns circling left and right and dancing together to honor seeds. After this the seed swap began!

Seed Swap. Photo by Nicole Davis/SFAI
Seed Swap. Photo by Nicole Davis/SFAI

We would like to thank everyone who came out to join us for this amazing day celebrating seed and also thank Rowen, Rulan, and all the performers. We would also like to thank Santa Fe Art Institute, McCune Charitable Foundation, and every anonymous donor who made this logistically possible.

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