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.