On Ethnobotany and Ethnobotanical Footprints.

You went back to Beeweeree to look for footprints, the leftovers of introduced ethnobotanical knowledge.

oak

Since the beginning of civilization, people have used plants as medicine.
Perhaps as early as Neanderthal man, plants were believed to have healing powers. The earliest recorded uses are found in Babylon circa 1770 BC in the Code of Hammurabi and in ancient Egypt circa 1550 B.C. In fact, ancient Egyptians believed medicinal plants to have utility even in the afterlife of their pharaohs. Plants have been recovered from the Giza pyramids and can be found on display in a dark corner of t Access Excellence Resource Center he Cairo Museum.
A discussion of human life on this planet would not be complete without a look at the role of plants.

Ethnobotany is the study of the use of plants by people, and can draw on many sources ranging from anthropological or ethnobotanical studies of current plant use by existing peoples, through documentary and historical sources (travellers’ tales, writings of the Classical authors, Mediaeval Herbals, etc.), to present-day cookery or woodworking books, to give a few examples. Ethnobotany is a burgeoning field, as evidenced by the vast number of general handbooks on the subject which have appeared recently, though much interest is focused on such commercially-viable fields as ethnopharmacology (or medicinal plant use).

While you foster yourself the need to increase awareness on the value of, often rapidly disappearing, indigenous or traditional knowledge of the uses of plants, with this Blog/Database project you try to bring forward another need: the need to not forget such knowledge even in “non-native” ecosystems.

Ethnobotanists are usually botanists and/or biologists with additional graduate training in such areas as: archeology, chemistry, ecology, anthropology, linguistics, history, pharmacology, sociology, religion and mythology. With such broad training, ethnobotanists raise many interesting questions quite different in scope from those of previous generations of scientists trained in botany alone. For example, botanists with anthropological and ecological training look at plants as an integral part of human culture. Not only do they study the plants within the tropical forests, they also work respectfully with shamans within the native culture, examining that culture’s concepts of disease.

You got no degrees whatshowever in any of those disciplines and an Bachelor of Fine Arts hardly touches on those issues.

What you got is peasant’ knowledge, ethnobotanical knowledge, and try to relate it to a foreign land, in a n attempt to “connect” to it, in an ancestral way.

You know what is good to eat and what you better leave. What is is good for fire wood and what is just gonna make a mess up your chimney. You know what is good for a sore tummy and what is good for your cough.
Most of the subjects of your knowledge are readily available in Australia.

What is not readily available is the understanding of where we all come from.

Humans do rely on their knowledge of the environment to be able to survive, this is been true since the dawn of time, when Neanderthal man was surviving on roots and fruits gathered from nature augmented by occasional small mammals and fishes.

We got to appreciate so much our familiar ecosystems that legends and mythology sprouts out of it.
Knowledge of the environment was passed on to the community through this stories.

We now live in an age of supermarkets and chemists shops, where our sustaining ailments get provided by remote producers, medicines by remote experts and everyday utilitarian objects and shelters are made of a mix of materials which not always one can position in the map of primary producers.

We live in a country where ehnobotanical knowledge has been lost and the imported one is not acknowledge in its full potential. Somewhat it seem like non-indigenous people want to differentiate by ridding themselves of foraging practices, labelling them as primitive.

Let’s not forget where we come from.
The first settlers to this continent could have not survived if they didn’t start farming cows and grow potatoes. That’s what they knew.
They couldn’t have learnt the resources of the alien environment in time to be able to feed themselves.

The plants imported where the founding stones of our natural connection.
Mint, stinging nettle, dock, dandelion, potatoes, carrot, fennel, cabbage, sage, laurel, oak, chestnuts, elm tree, clover, bamboo, camphor laurel, blackberry, olive tree, grapes, citrus …

Whether we acknowledge it or not in our political correct times, those are the plants in our folklore and our recipes, and the list goes on the longer cultures settle in this country.

Some of those plants in the list are now declared noxious, mainly for economic reasons, as mono-culture ways of production limit the variety of “economically viable” species.

Mono-culture, you grew to dislike this word.

chestnut

At Beeweeree -an old homestead active from mid 19th century to 1950s- there is not much left as botanical footprints goes.
A majestic Oak tree and a few remnants of grasses and herbs, like Scotch Thistle, Clover, Oxalis Dock, Ink Weed and Purslane.
There is also a distant Chestnut tree, too difficult to approach because of the Lantana.

But then Lantana was introduced too…


lantana

A couple of paraghraphs in this post came from the work of C. Veilleux and S. R.King, and S.Mason.

About info

Diego Bonetto is a multimedia artist living and practicing in Sydney, Australia, and is a key member of artists' collectives SquatSpace and the BigFAGPress. -The SquatSpace collective has been producing ground-breaking events and projects since 2000. The group has been curated in a number of shows both in Australia and overseas. The current initiatives, the Redfern-Waterloo Tour of beauty (www.squatspace.com/redfern) tackle issues of social representation and the politics of space generated by gentrification. -The BigFagPress (BFP) is a publishing facility housed in Wooloomooloo, Sydney. The BFP is a salvaged 4-tonnes Off-set proof press. The press allows for the creation of countless artworks by keen printmakers and self-started publishers. www.bigfagpress.org Diego has also been working with WeedyConnection, an environmental art campaign. The project involves an online resource (www.weedyconnection.com), short documentary films, cooking shows, blogs, installations, prints, facebook interventions and various site-specific installations in the form of self-guided tours. WeedyConnection tackle the anthropocentric view of what environment should look like. Based on research and data provided by disciplines as far apart as biology, anthropology, paloenthology, social ecology and ethno botany it formulates ethical questions about cultural representation in times of environmental urgency.
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