Zuri Camille de Souza – DISTANT NATURE (JOURNAL ENTRIES)

A political herbarium of Jericho.

During a 5-week residency at el-AtlalZuri Camille de Souza studied the relationship between political control over land and relationships to plants, as well as the natural ecology. Her research was driven by the question: Can we form a new understanding of nature?  One that brings together artificial and organic?

Presented here is a compendium of thoughts, observations and questions encountered while working on the larger thesis project.  These journal entries offer a cursory introduction to the ideas underlying “Distant Nature,” such as geopolitical challenges surrounding perceptions of the natural landscape, inclusivity of nature, and bringing together traditional and contemporary knowledge about plants. Zuri’s writing is supplemented by her own photography alongside selected images by Jimmy Granger.

View the full "Distant Nature" project here.
Jimmy Granger

On the first walk, I saw nothing besides the mountain, looming in front of me. It was hot, the afternoon.

On the second walk, I saw Milkweed and fields of eggplants. I collected plants for my herbarium.

Jimmy Granger

On the third walk, this time in the evening, children played on the streets and people sat in their balconies. The Ficus trees swayed in the wind, heavy, slow. Bright pink oleander and tangerine bougainvillea set against a sky slowly turning purple. As I walked, I noticed sugarcane growing by the canals.

On the fourth walk, I took a different route. Men were harvesting eggplants in buckets. I plucked flowers from the sidr tree, pausing to listen to the bees that were harvesting pollen. I passed by fields of vegetables wrapped in plastic, passed small houses with orange trees growing in front of them, passed abandoned structures in metal and concrete, passed green pools of water, passed piles of plastic and old furniture, passed the spines of animals and old shoes.

Jimmy Granger
Jericho is an oasis of warmth—fertile and inviting. Walking these streets, I found herbs growing besides plantations of vegetables, fruits and dates—wild and cultivated, all nutritious and healing.
I began this project to study the ecology of the Jordan Valley. However, each new conversation lead me deeper into a network of access to natural resources and control over ourselves and our bodies.
By reclaiming control of our bodies—through  our nutrition, our practices of healing and our relationship with nature for pleasure—we can move towards equality that acknowledges desires and dreams; that goes beyond the basic needs we consider when providing humanitarian aid; that works towards self-reliant communities based on a collaborative movement of knowledge and skill-sharing.

Plastic bags, old furniture, over-ripe dates, pink bougainvillea—the landscape here is at once fertile and decomposed. As i walked through jericho, i looked for herbs, healing plants, special trees through which i could understand the ecology of palestine and its traditional forms of healing.

الطبيع في أريحا منقسمة إلى الجمال الطبيعي الخصب وايضا النفايات مثل أكياس البلاستيك والأثاث القديم و البلح الزائد في النضوج والورد الزهرية. عندما امشي في مدينة أريحا انظر إلى الأعشاب والنباتات العلاجية والأشجار المميزة التي من خلالها أدرك وأفهم علم البيئة في فلسطين والطرق التقليدية في العلاج.

I found these, but i also found freshly-planted saplings wrapped in plastic before they bore vegetables; stagnant green pools fed by fresh spring water; tangled knots of banana leaves piled high.

ووجدت ايضا  الشتلات الزراعية المغلفة بالبلاستك قبل ان تنمو وتنتج و برك الماء الخضراء تنمو من مياه صافيه ونظيفه وعقد متشابكة من أوراق الموز تعلو من ارتفاعها.

Nature was around me—visible, tactile, lush—but symbolic. It was distant; a mirage, like that of an oasis nestled between dunes. The dualities of organic and artificial; plastic and soil through which i approached ecology were rendered as transient and fluid as sand and water.

الطبيعة من حولي كانت واضحه وملموسه ووفيرة  ولكن ذو معنى رمزي. تبدوا بعيده وسرابيه مثل الواحة تعرش بين الكثبان. الازدواجية بين الطبيعي والصناعي مثل البلاستك والتراب هي الطريقة التي من خلالها درست البيئة و التي هي ذو مقدمة عابره وسلسه مثل الماء والرمل.

Beyond the aesthetic imagery and synthetic poetry, these deserts and fields speak of control and restricted access—stolen water and cheap manual  labour; pesticides and absent waste disposal; through such instances, a distant nature is formed—one that is sustained and cultivated in one geographic location for the benefit(s) of another through actions of production, re-production and consumption.

بعيدا عن الصور الجمالية و النص الشعري، فهذه الحقول و الصحراء تدل على التقيد والتحكم في وصول الموارد الأساسية  مثل الماء. وايدي العمل الرخيصة وزيادة استخدام المبيدات الحشرية والنقص في التخلص من النفايات هي ايضا من المعضلات لهذه الحقول. في مثل هذه الحالات فإن الطبيعية البعيدة هي المحصلة ونعني بها إنها الطبيعة التي تستدام و تهذّب في منطقه جغرافيه معينه  لمصالح أخرى مثل الإنتاج وإعادة الإنتاج والاستهلاك لتحقيق أهداف اقتصادية وزراعية في مناطق جغرافية أخرى بعيدة.

Through the framework of a distant nature, even ecology becomes oppressive and ecological burdens— climate migration; drought; food scarcity—are transferred along power-structures. Whilst land can be sustained, preserved or conserved, it is important to ask why, from whom and for what benefit?

في الإطار العملي للطبيعة البعيدة تصبح الدراسة البيئة امرٌ ثقيلة وعبئٌ بيئي. فإن الهجرة بسبب المناخ والجفاف و ندرة الغذاء تتحول مع تحول هياكل القوى الاجتماعية في المنطقة. حتى تصبح الأراضي مستدامة و محفوظة ومحافظ عليها فإنه من المهم السؤال لماذا و لمن وما هي الفوائد؟

Jimmy Granger

We need to talk about environmental challenges within communities that experience sociopolitical hegemony. Furthermore, we need to understand sensitive ways in which to create open, equal spaces within our communities that consider nature in a multitude of forms.

من اللازم أن نتحدِث عن المعوقات البيئية في المجتمعات التي تمر في الهيمنة السياسية والاجتماعية. بالإضافة إلى البحث عن الطرق المدروسة التي من خلالها تخلق المساحات المتساوية والمفتوحة في مجتمعاتنا التي تقدر البيئة بكل اشكالها.

 

 

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