‘Each evening as i lie on the scorched village rooftops, gazing up at the labyrinth of caves, dwellings and granaries scattered across this imperious sandstone monolith, i become audience to conversations in a language not my own, the wordless being of others. The chattering and laughing emanating from the dark corners feel like remnants of my indigenous soul looming in the expanse of awareness. We are engaging in a shadow dance, framed by an infinite dome of glittering intelligence, my cells slightly alter their form. The trace particles become part of me, and we change together.’
This extract was taken from my journal while in Dogon country, during several months spent in the remote regions of Northern Mali, Niger and Chad over a decade ago. A trip which signalled the start of a new path driven by a broadening perspective on the notion of reality as held in my western mind. The opening of this channel has culminated in a series of bilateral portraits that honour the ancient traditions of voodoo, divination and shamanism, offering tools to interact with the metaphysical nature of plants and other organic matter.
I recognise in the construction of these images, that it was a longing to comprehend this language I hear in the wild that led me to creativity, to learn over the years to receive and convey improved fluency in this new language. A tongue that should not be mistaken for the language of plants nor that of science. To name and describe you must first see, and science polishes the gift of seeing. But beneath the richness of its vocabulary and its descriptive power, something is missing, the same something that swells around you and in you when you listen to the world. The language scientists speak is one of objects, reducing a being to its working parts which, however precise, is based on a profound error in grammar, an omission, a grave loss in translation from the native languages of these shores.
Plants have been on the Earth far longer than humans; they’ve have had time to figure things out. They have learned to thrive by transforming, by refusing to be destroyed by change. The roots will feed in the soil, the leaves will drink in the sun, and it will blossom anew. Plants know how to make food and medicine from light and water, and then they give it away. They teach us by example. Whether or not we choose to pay attention to the lesson is entirely up to us.