Saturday, April 27, 2019

Charm for Asian and African Women Farmers


I want to share this most recent project with you wonderful supporters of my work. The story of the piece is as follows:

Charm for Asian and African Women Farmers
Caryl Henry Alexander

Tradition, my sisters, is what brings this artwork—Charm for Asian and African Women Farmers—into being. The work was conceived after a lively conversation that I had with three leading women at Vietlead.org, a Vietnamese community cultural organization in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The conversation was about growing “bitter melon” (Momordica charantia), which is a much loved and traditional medicinal food in Asia. 
 
There was an elder woman farmer from Vietnam, who had been growing bitter melon for many years. She was happy to share her practice with me. She helped me to understand the plant intimately; and it was a beautiful experience. She explained how to treat the roots as the plant grows to support a strong harvest and made clear how to manage the vine’s growth with a mind to support its proliferation of blossoms and, ultimately, fruit.

 














For me, it was a magical conversation because I had been studying this amazing plant in my plant medicine classes. The generous spirits of these women are with me in my garden today as I cultivate the plant medicine that supports my well being and that of many in my community.

 












When I traveled to West Africa this past winter, my plan was to create artworks that are plant-based both thematically as well as materially. I visioned connecting with Nigerian and Ghanaian women farmers and herbalists to learn about their traditions and current practices in plant medicine. 
What struck me was the proliferation of, and the African women’s respect for, a plant they call “bitter leaf” (ernonia amygdalina), which is indigenous to tropical Africa. The women showed me how to identify the plant and explained to me its many uses in food and as a medicinal preparation.


I began to notice at least one of these plants, which is a shrub, in most family urban compounds; and saw fields of the plant being cultivated whenever I traveled to rural areas. I learned about the life cycle of the plant, its anatomy, and how it is grown and used by women to strengthen the health and wellness of their families and communities. 































I came to realize that this plant’s medicine, its cultural context, and the connection that the women had to it is quite similar to that of the bitter melon. The bitter spirit of these plants is what is most prized in both culinary and medicinal practice.




   
It is in the healing energetics of the plants in this charm that I endeavor to connect my Asian and African farming sisters. It is a coming together of the power of the earth, the soil, water, and the seasons.
Thank you, my Asian and African sisters, for sharing your wisdom and connection with our planet. We are one in our love of the earth.


Charm for Asian and African Women Farmers was created in Ibadan, Nigeria; Ntonso, Ghana; and Clinton, Maryland (USA). 
It is comprised of plant-based materials including banana and pineapple leaves, lemon grass, cotton, sumac flowers, onion skin, English ivy, and bamboo; and finished off with acrylic paint and love.














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Friday, April 19, 2019

Report Back on Report Back!




My dear friends Tunde and Tinuke Odunlade welcomed us into their home!

Greeting friends! Thanks to everyone who came by to hear about our West Africa Adventure! It was fun to see everyone and to catch up on your goings on. We had some good conversation and we got to share our experiences during the two weeks that Jesse was with me in Nigeria.







Monday, March 11, 2019

West African Adventures Report Back Party

   You are invited to join us as we share our experiences and offer insights into what life looked like to us in Nigeria and Ghana!

Friday, March 8, 2019

Huntington Community Center gallery March 2019

WOW! These sculptures, "Charms for the Anacostia River" look awesome at Huntington Community Center gallery in Bowie! They are part of an exhibition of the Poetry Poster Project.

Maybe you remember these sculptures from last Summer when they were created in collaboration with the PGCounty SYEP youths.



The project was designed to be installed at Bladensberg Waterfront Park and I hear that they will be installed at the park sometime after the exhibition closes.



Thanks Hiram Larew and Stewart Seal for your support in making the exhibition happen. Thanks to Jesse Alexander for representing me and photographing the gallery last night.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Fox Haven Farm yard art and solstice wreaths


I love this time of year, don’t you? The plants and trees doing their thing, resting and building strength for the coming Spring. The visual splendor of the naked branches is tickling my eyes! 
In light of this-I’ve been thinking of the wonderful people out at Fox Haven Farm who participated in my yard art with vines workshop last spring and the awesome sculptures that they created for their gardens. I would love to see their work in the spaces that they lived in this Summer.

So yesterday I received an invite to propose a workshop at Fox Haven for 2018 and I started thinking about Springtime herbal wreaths and was looking around to see how to create a wreath. In doing so I realized that by now the leaves have given way and there should be an awesome vine framework on which to build a wreath! Repurposed vines, repurposed artwork!


If anyone has pics please share them with me carylhenryalexander@gmail.com
And if you create a wreath with your vine sculpture-let me know! Enjoy the season
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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

#PartyatthePolls at Upper Marlboro Community Center

Today we did a pop up art event at our local polling place. 
We participated in #PartyatthePolls! 
It was fun! Until there were no ballots for people to cast their votes....for hours!
Our challenge was the rules against electioneering within 50ft of the poll. I don't think that was what we were doing but the rule caused us to not have access to the voters as they waited to vote.


















I heard about #PartyatthePolls on social media. 
#PartyAtThePolls, is a nationwide initiative for artists to help make voting fun by offering opportunities for voters to be creative and experience creativity before-during-after they cast their ballots.
This National event looked like an awesome opportunity to engage with our super local residents.




Goals: Most importantly to increase the profile and conversation around art-poetry and creativity in South County  and to share through social media in the National conversation.
We are 4 South PG County creatives, artists Caryl Henry and John Lee Ranta and poets Jesse Alexander and Hiram Larew  with a special guest poet Rocky Jones from Annapolis!


 


















Our site was the Upper Marlboro Community Center-5400 Marlboro Race Track Road, Upper Marlboro, MD 20772- polling site, from 5-8pm.

The poets read poems, folks wrote about why they vote and Lee and I concentrated on conversations with voters on their way into the poll and taking celebratory selfies with them as they left. Interesting conversation were had, we met new artists that we had not known.

Most folks just wanted to vote and go home-we had a good time-learned a lot and definitely lifted up the visibility of artists in our area! Thanks to the artists and poets and our community for participating!








Sunday, August 26, 2018

This Paint Branch Trail Mural is Magic



This week, I have been working with PGParks and the College Park Scholars program. 
Here is the wall as I saw it during an initial site visit!
We painted a 40ft mural in an afternoon!
It was an awesome energy that came down the trail with 21 first year students on their first day after moving into the dorms!
Motivated, excited, confident, communicative and collaborative! 
I asked the students to create 3 groups of 7 folks and to each take 1/3 of the mural to paint. Each group strategized and developed a plan of action.
The results are spectacular!
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Thursday, August 2, 2018

Syep 2018

Yesterday was the culminating workday with my Prince Georges County Summer Youth Employment Program team.

The 14-18 years olds have been clearing honeysuckle, grapevine, bittersweet and lots of mugwort off of trees and out of the ground in the local trail.
I heard today that they have removed 10000 sq ft in their 4 week project! Wow that is awesome! This work makes our trails much safer!


So my part in all of this was to work with SYEP in the afternoons 2x a week to create a collaborative public sculpture to live on a tree along the Anacostia river in the parks Art on the Trails project. We worked with the vines that they were pulling each morning and natural twine.
My idea was to create an imagination provocation, a visual element that sparks creative thinking! The work would be installed on a mock pear tree that is set to die because it is crowding out 3 native trees at Bladensberg Waterfront Park. This project springs from the 2015 "Listen" Art on the Trails project.



I visioned the workshops to be like a quilting bee or a tamale making party. Everyone has a role that is essential for the whole project to be a success, and a safe space to share stories.





Most days the youth were pretty tired from their morning's work pulling weeds.For the first few workshops, we were under the tree that we were creating the artwork to hang onto. Later in the week, as the rain really set in we worked under the park's awesome pavilion.







There were a few opportunities for interesting conversations around higher education and safety when playing sports. The hand work was sparse as the young people were captivated by their phones but with the support of a couple of the group leaders ultimately the project is wonderful!