Sacred play at Hosting Lands @På Den Anden Side (On the Other side)
In his Guardian article of 5 April 2021, “Bill Gates is the biggest private owner of farmland in the United States,” writer Nick Estes reminds us of the relationship between land, power, race and class, as well as how we have come to relate to land — and often the answer to the question of who owns, labors and cares for it reveals “obscene levels of inequality and legacies of colonialism and white supremacy in the United States, and also the world.” Estes argues that “wealth accumulation always goes hand-in-hand with exploitation and dispossession.” (from Blackgirl On Mars, Repeater 2023)
On the weekend of September 16th in Hårbølle, Møn I was invited by Hosting Lands @ På Den Anden Side (On the other Side) to present my practice of counter-storytelling at their Friday Bar, as well as participate in their weekend-long workshop “Rehabilitating the Rural” in Hårbølle, Møn where we co-created a sacred space to speak about the land in ways I have always dreamt of. During this time I thought so much about my Trinidadian sister, Gillian Goddard – who you can read about at my publisher’s Repeater’s website – https://repeaterbooks.com/lesley-ann-brown-iwd-2023/
As I write in my most recent memoir, Blackgirl On Mars:
Frantz Fanon reminds us that “for a colonized people the most essential value, because the most concrete, is first and foremost the land: the land which will bring them bread and, above all, dignity.”
I’ve never really understood the concept of privately owned land. When I read stories about how many Indigenous people were confused about settlers’ use and control of land, I always understood it from their point of view. It seems silly that anyone can say they “own” a piece of land. The land, to me, should be shared; taken care of, yes, but never owned. I think ownership is a faulty foundation that only encourages violence toward the land and her people. To claim land ownership means one must protect it and acquire more. This is the foundation of Europeans’ many wars, which they believed are their biblical right. The history of land ownership is a bloody one, which perhaps helps us to understand why “terror” and “terra” phonetically sound not so unalike.
Like most of their generation, my grandparents were raised in rural communities. My grandfather was born in the Indo-Trinidadian heartland of Caroni and my grandmother in the mountain village of Santa Cruz. My grandparents came of age over the course of two world wars on an island that was considered valuable to foreign interests even before the discovery of oil there.
My grandfather, a dougla (half East Indian, half Black), raised by what my grandmother would call a creole family — creole in this sense meaning Black Trinidadian — had the word “coolie” written on his birth certificate. He was rendered an orphan when his parents migrated to Canada — his mother would die from the “draft”— a word that, for Black people, came to mean both the cold air of temperate regions as well as the racism typically experienced in these spaces; his father, who was originally from Guyana, was never to be heard from again.
Land can be and is such a contentious issue – especially in a culture that believes she can be owned and exploited, as we see globally as a result of colonization and Euro-fundamentalist values. These values create a sense of entitlement (ordained by patriarchal gods) and obscure the fact that land can also be a specific point for healing. In this sense especially, it is inspiring to see my comrades of the north, create such spaces where we are invited to have difficult and even liberating discussions around these issues.
Hosting Lands, “is a slow-growing, decentralized exhibition movement unfolding around the land, the relationship between host and guest, and the link between the hyper-local and the global. Over three years, the exhibition will move between six locations throughout Denmark and engage local and international artists, activists, and communities. Hosting Lands explores how we can steward and care for land differently through the legal commoning of conventional farmlands and by responsively working collectively and regenerative sites. Hosting Lands orients itself towards futures beyond the exhibition movement by offering possibilities to inhabit artistic spaces as an architecture of the every day and creating lasting change in the landscapes and the worlds at stake.” (from website)
På Den Anden Side, located in Møn, examines, among other things, how to cultivate the land by asking critical questions about how we inhabit this planet. “The question of how we, in the future, will co-exist and cultivate the land without destroying (her) is an important aspect for new political decisions, philosophical questions and artistic research.” (my translation)
That Friday, I was able to cultivate one of my favorite pastimes these days, “sacred play.” I keep revisiting this idea, especially when I learned that it is precisely when we are in this spirit that we are expansive as opposed to restrictive. It is a gift to be in the company of others who understand this and invite me to explore this spirit. I could share my practice of counter-storytelling and read one of my favorite poems, “Country: A Road Map to Liberation,” while the room was alive with the pitter-patter of children’s feet.
As Hildegard de Bingen has attested and so many others – being close to the land is ecstasy – add being able to discuss with others, to “play” around the land as the subject is divine. Needless to say, I left this event feeling revitalized, recharged, inspired, and, dare I say, ecstatic?
I want to thank every single person who showed up! I want to congratulate Hosting Lands, På Den Anden Side, for creating such a wonderful space for sacred play – for it is when we are in this spirit we are open, curious, and gracious with one another. This is precisely what the world needs now; this is precisely what we need now. It is exactly what I need now. A special thank you to Følsom Front for their superb music and to Christian and Jonas, who spontaneously joined me in this spirit of play to accompany me in my reading with their gorgeous music. Last but certainly not least, to Ida Bencke and Dea Antonsen, who have graciously extended spaces for me to put so much of my work into practice. Thank you! More to come!