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A Journey of Cultural Reclamation: We Are Seeds

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

The Ways We Eat: An Invitation to Reimagine our Relationships with Food and Land 📷: Mohanned Ghadban

“Planting seeds of abundance in the womb of creation” we whisper to the sky... and we planted them in our “Soul Garden”.

The circle was graciously opened in a good way by Brianna Bear of the Songhees nation who welcomed us to the territories. She highlighted her teachings regarding the importance of understanding her own ancestral land-based history, she sang, we felt. Despite our diverse

diasporic stories and the uninvited settling of these lands, she recognized the importance of developing caring relationships of reciprocity with the lands and waters we reside on, regardless of our ancestral lineages.

We examined the reclamation of our cultural practices in relation to the land and the food we grow, prepare, share, and preserve as a way to ease the sense of displacement and loss of ancestral knowledge. 📷: Libation station with offering to our ancestors

featuring callaloo, rice, and squash and water

Setting the Scene

The experience was created intentionally, where the space was organized by stations, each one facilitated by our partners. Monique Salez from Raino Dance used her versatility to introduce the embodiment station, by channeling and moving the stagnant energy, transforming the feelings of disconnection, anger, and frustration into a space where light and positive energies were conducive to emphasizing intentionality & relationality to provide a sense of space, place, and time and help us engage with art-based practices.

We observed stagnant heaviness and silent grief with the ongoing genocide in Palestine. The group dynamic let us know that for the most part, they just weren’t feeling called to transmuting the energy in that way. 📷: Monique starting off

the embodiment session.

📷: Embodiment session, facilitated by Monique Salez.

Instead participants kept engaging with the sound waves and engaged with the art-based station to describe a nourishing food memory, led by Vahini Govender from Bright Insight, counteracting feelings of diasporic grief and planting seeds of possibility in our minds. Participants were invited to weave past memories with futuristic realities and envision how they could bring the

feeling of that food memory into their current or future community.

The art space was designed to be a place to focus on breathing and deep listening. Prompts were provided on how to center oneself, facilitating participants to find outlets to channel their feelings in the space.

📷: Vahini leading the art-based session.

At the Iyé table, gifts of abundance were shared from the Giving Garden at RRU led by Solara Goldwynn, one of our dearest partners who supplied us with freshly picked collard greens, apples, and black futsu squash.

We created a “Soul Garden” - a place where we planted the seeds we would like to care for and harvest when, in community, we come together for food and medicine growing purposes. Popsicle stick signs were provided for participants to write what they’re planting, whether literal or abstract.

Cultural safety was at the center, supported by Matty Cervantes, who served as our Community Care Support, to ensure that everyone present knew that they had a specific person to hold space for them, understanding that the intersections between food, land and culture can be very emotionally charged topics for many.

📷: the Soul Garden.

The Words and Feelings of Community Members

📷: Collages designed by Razan Mereeb, with drawings from participants

Touched by the honest, vulnerable sharing, and the openness experienced was so humbling and motivating. While respecting the confidentiality of the participants in what they shared in the curated space, we have asked some individuals for consent to share their words and continue the conversations about these topics.

One participant shared about her challenges in learning about her cultural heritage after her family moved to Canada, as they had worked to assimilate their family and actively distance themselves from cultural foods and practices because they didn’t feel safe or supported to continue connecting with their roots in those ways. She says that when she goes to visit her family in Alberta, she will ask them to “fill my bags with all the Bengali spices I can’t access here”, as there are more Bengali grocery stores there than here This simple request symbolizes a longing for familiar tastes and smells that evoke memories of home. It’s a testament to how food can serve as a powerful link to our cultural identity.

Through the conversations we shared, someone was inspired to declare: “WE ARE SEEDS - we are the next generation”. This powerful declaration embodies hope and resilience. Like seeds, we carry the potential for growth and transformation. We are the bearers of our culture, imbued with the knowledge of generations before us, and tasked with preserving it for future generations.

In fact, in the words of another participant, keeping my sense of smells and tastes is a form of resistance. Through upholding his commitment to continuing to make foods from his homeland, he shared how it helped him sustain his relationship with his cultural heritage, and the flavours that were “programmed” into him by his mother. He is determined to continue making kimchi and other Korean dishes, because “Taste is like a mother tongue…[it] speaks to a journey we’ve been on”.

Someone else told us that there’s a grieving process as she can’t replicate the food she can make in Mexico - she will make the same dish here and it just doesn’t taste the same. We discussed how factors such as altitude, the microbiome, the terroir, and the environment affect how the food we cook tastes, and it was mentioned that some folks aren’t even able to find the right kinds of cooking utensils here, either.

These conversations around land access emphasizes the importance of cultural safety and the emotional charge that discussions around food, land, and culture can carry. It also highlights the challenges faced by diasporic communities in preserving and connecting with their cultural heritage through food.

How can we access public lands for food and medicine growing purposes when our feelings of displacement and loss of ancestral knowledge are so prevalent? We believe that by creating spaces for communal food growing promotes a sense of belonging and connection to one’s roots and learning from each other.

In conclusion, the event underscores the importance of cultural reclamation and community engagement in fostering a sense of belonging, preserving cultural heritage, and demanding access to public lands for food and medicine growing purposes. It also highlights the need for governance protocols when diverse communities come together to learn from each other. We perceived the testament to the resilience of communities and the power of collective action in fostering positive change.

This event was brought to you in partnership by:

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