deep histories fragile memories is an artistic research cluster based at the LUCA School of the Arts in Brussels. It aims to bring together like-minded researchers, practitioners and projects to create a collaborative body of knowledge that will be accessible to a wide audience. One of its projects is the Fieldguides, a series of essays, each written by practitioners/researchers from diverse backgrounds.
I am excited to have been invited by Wendy Morris, Associate Professor of Contemporary Art at LUCA and Leuven University to contribute to this project that is part of her Nothing of Importance Occurred: Recuperating a Herball for a 17th century enslaved Angolan Midwife at the Cape. I believe that this project answers a need to recuperate our histories and to tell them in a multiplicity of voices.
Fieldguides for a Preternaturalist is intended to be an ambulatory library of ten chapbooks that mark a return from Cape Town to Angola. Volumes 1-3 (2022) mark the first leg, from a shrine on Signal Hill to a village in the Kamiesberg, Namaqualand. The guides are Nadia Kamies, Rachel O’Donnell, Joshua Cohen and Johanna Lot.
My essay, UNPICK, RESTITCH Doilies, Medorahs and Labouring Plants, draws on an archive of the ordinary – family photographs, my grandmothers’ craftwork, rituals and traditions – to narrate the story of where I come from. The essays are intended to be read aloud at gatherings in order to generate further collaboration.
The featured image is of the Rose of Jericho or Flower of Maryam, a plant that emerges as an analogy for midwives, birth and labour, travelling and displacement, rebirth and resurrection, with deep connections to disempowered voices throughout generations. The plant was brought by returning pilgrims from Mecca to be used as a visual aid during labour.