“I just want to share my love of gardening with the children, so they can carry it forward.” – Tata William
The momentum began to build as we awaited the arrival of Return to Origin’s assistant facilitator, the sound recordist and photographer. Building trust was essential before people would open up and hopefully not feel invaded by people they did not know. We did two days of walkabouts in the community. Short interviews turned into an intimate breaking the ice and relationship-building experience.
We met several community members in many different ways: gardeners, cooks, community leaders, beaders and elders, who all opened their homes to us and were willing to sit and talk and have their photo taken. We bought produce from the women’s co-op, who plant by the local school. We left with armfuls of beets and onions. A full circle had been presented: the land, tilled, seeded, planted and grown, with a final bounty of vegetables directly from the earth and into our arms; to be cooked for the participants of the workshop over the next three days. The rounds of interviews were proof that this community had sustained themselves during a pandemic, despite its challenges. The stories began to flow organically, and the visions shared on sustainability, and handing down of knowledge, were hopeful and inspiring. Skill-sharing, knowledge, wisdom, stories and meeting heart-to-heart were the order of both days, and inspired and uplifted us all. In addition. During the pandemic more gardens and vegetables were planted, more fruit trees for children to eat from, and a closer community fostered, sharing and distributing more with a shared vision.
“I feel happy when everything is growing and when I sell it. It keeps me young! Gardening has made me independent. I can buy what I want. I have what I need. I don’t need to steal or beg for a job. Young people can learn this too.” – Phindiwe Hlawana (Women’s Gardening Co-Op)
“I want to learn about our history. The way we used to live, so I can live and survive with that knowledge.” - Youth participant
Return to Origin in partnership with Ingcungcu Community, Kenton-on –Sea, will explore through the Sustainable Together project, community involvement in sustainability in the face of adversity in a post-Apartheid present. With a deep legacy of sons and daughters of the soil - and the origins of those who came before, and their connection to the land, farming and thriving - the community look to the past in order to heal and make sense of the future. The extraordinary grassroots work already in place and still to come will honor their origins. In the re -telling of the stories, the community knows that the intrinsic links between re-rembering the past and passing down this knowledge will not only bring healing, but also leave a legacy of hope for future generations.
“We have everything we need right here” - Zanele Mayiza, Teacher
In the past we embodied our connection to the land and its ways. Yet in living it, we may not have known its true value until, at the hand of historical processes, this connection to land and heritage has been severed; our ways of protecting and honouring them, forgotten. There is, however, the potential to re-member what has been severed; the potential to both deepen and expand our rela-tionship to the earth, our histories, our communities, and ourselves. Wholeness begins with an acknowledgement of what was lost, for it is in the loss of home, that we come to find it, and in be-coming who we are not, to recover who we really are. It is, as the old proverb echoes and reminds us, in the wound that the blessing resides. The work of recovering, rehabilitating and restoring rela-tionships to land, ourselves, each other, and communities, begins with reconciling the past. Discon-nection, and severing continues to reverberate in a post-Apartheid present where traumas to, and from, ourselves are still deeply embedded in our blood, bones and lineages.
“When the tree bears fruit everyone will benefit from it” - Tata Phixsle, Elder
Community involvement in processes of planting, harvesting and preparing food, contribute to a deepened sense of belonging, self-worth and an awareness needed to care for the earth and ourselves. Our fathers and grandfathers planted, and cared for the land. We have come to tell our stories. We have lived through the dangers and traumas of a single narrative, and by it, have witnessed many perspectives, practices and ontologies being wiped out. Wisdom and ways of relating to the world, silenced and forgotten. Yet, there are stories still to find expression in the world; stories with a light that, though dimmed, burns brighter; stories that once told, ignite the light in others. Our vision is to create a space for the holding and sharing of stories, and to foster with it, the beginnings of recon-ciliation and healing.
“When we work together, we grow together.” - Mbali Marais, Project Manager
The co-curated outputs of the Sustainable Together project with the community will include a sound documentary, and photographs, telling the stories of resilience, sustainability and remembering of self-worth through heritage in this community. This culminates in an exhibition celebrating the ex-traordinary grassroots work done to hold people together during the Covid-19 lockdown, and the shift towards a longer-term sustainable food- and care system that values the stories and well-being of those who are part of it, and the natural world that supports them, in Ekuphumleni. In addition we are calling in the creative artists, beaders, potters and musicians. These will form the backdrop for interactive sessions that demonstrate in practice what an ecologically sustainable system could look like when rooted in the cultivation of well-being, self-worth and purpose. We are spotlighting through this exhibition the community’s gifts as a collective, whilst honoring and celebrating the Ekuphumleni community's rich food heritage, memories of connection to the land and water, ex-changed between elders and youth, and a return to a sense of belonging to the land after the dis-connections of our recent history. At its core it is about giving voice to the hidden histories of this area, and leaving a legacy for future generations.