Inspiring people to re-imagine their relationship to their world

Sustainable Together Exhibition

Mbali Marais
Published on
Sustainable Together Project 2021
Celebration and Exhibition

Ekuphumleni - Our Place of Rest

Our community curated exhibition celebrates the extraordinary grassroots work done to hold communities together during the Covid-19 lockdown and subsequently the shift towards a longer-term sustainable food and care system that values the stories and well-being of those who are a part of it, and the natural world that supports them. 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, the Ekuphumleni community gives voice to the hidden histories of the past in order to heal and make sense of the future. Return To Origin’s Sustainable Together Project in collaboration with ‘Ingcungcu Community Development Forum’ Kenton on Sea, and the Ekuphumleni residents gathered the creative output of time spent together across generations capturing storytelling, song, voice and visibility. Celebrating the community’s gifts as a collective, honoring Ekuphumleni’s rich food heritage, memories of connection to the land and water, exchanged between elders and youth, and a return to a sense of belonging to the land after the separations of our recent history, this exhibition leaves a legacy for future generations.

Endulo / Origins

Back then, we could rely on the seasons. Rain was consistent. In times of drought, we would go to the mountain and sing and call to
God to bring the rain.

They used to grow crops and raise animals to provide for their families. They would grow food from their own seeds, and feed their animals with their own vegetables.

I remember eating dried mealies, which were cooked and eaten only with salt. The mealies and food they ate back in the day were healthier. I recall food on the fire. My father ploughed sweet potatoes, potatoes and mealies. They braai’d and baked these on coals in the ground. Back then, they did everything for themselves; they worked hard, and always had enough.

Iimbewu / Seeds

The soil is the source of life. The food from the soil is healthy. I am still doing what Grandpa taught me. Growing. Living from the earth. They were strict with us because that was what sustained us, kept us alive.

It was very lovely back in the day, as everything came from the soil. The veggies from the soil made us very strong. That is why I have lived to be so old. A garden teaches you patience. People were patient. You planted a carrot, and waited for it to grow. I want to learn about our history. The way we used to live. So I can live and survive with that knowledge.

The youth are hungry! I just want to share my love of gardening with the children so they can carry it forward. Be willing to learn from the elders. Be willing to bow down and listen. We must remember how to plant like we used to. Neighbours planting different things, sharing the produce and seed. I am happy to be here with these elders, getting blessings and joy.

Yantlukwano / Separation

There were rules. Black people can’t own more than 10 cows. That broke my heart.

After being introduced to a culture of “buying” we have not stood strong in our roots.
Back then, we planted from the soil, we ate from the soil. Self-respect and self-love is the brightness.

When I am stressed, I find peace at the water, it has taught me patience, even when I do not have enough to eat

Khula’Nam / Grow with me

We are learning from each other. I know things can not be the same as in the past, but I hope to pass down what can be done to my children. Just sitting and watching the plants grow.

As a youth I have not had time to sit in circle and listen. I will take these stories and transfer to my children so they know where they come from and who they are. Stories are a legacy to us, and we can take this legacy and teach it to our children.

I will share these stories with my children. I now know where I come from, and who I am. I will continue to seek to learn more about our history. I hope young people will bridge the gap between what the old people know and what the young are able to make going forward.

We are here to pass on the knowledge of the old ways that the elders are here to teach. The elders and youth can learn from one another. This is a blessing shared between these two groups. 

We can bring back that spirit of sharing: in the old days people would ensure that nobody in their community was ever in poverty. We can bring back the dignity of who we are.

Thank you to the elders and to everyone here for giving us new life

In the remembering of our losses, we slowly mend the broken pieces to become whole. What has been buried is never forgotten, but reconciled through truth, and shared experience. Deep bonds are formed in unity.
Mbali Marais -Project Manager - Return To Origin

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