is the study of the complex relationships between plants and people, and by extension animals and the land. We share with plants every single action that makes us human: from the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the paper we write on and read from, the medicine we use, the sacraments and the incense of our ceremonies, and so much more.
During my MPhil I conducted research with communities in Haute Matsiatra, Madagascar, investigating food sovereignty and the role of civil society organisations in supporting communities’ resistance to land grabbing; I researched Sacred Ecology in the western Alps in my home community and in western Nepal. I also collaborated on a report on the topic of Sacred Natural Sites (SNS) in Madagascar with the Gaia Foundation, where I was also involved in their Seed Sovereignty Programme.
Recent research projects included: recording the local sacred oral literature and documenting the nexus between spiritual and agricultural practices of the village of Malikarjun, in the Kailash Sacred Landscape; documenting dairy and land guardianship practices among transhumant communities in the mountains I call home in north-west Italy; understanding and retrieving what Indigenous scholar and biologist Robin Wall Kimmerer has called ceremonies of practical reverence, that is site-specific acts that root people in place and sanctify their relationship to land and other fellow beings.
I am particularly interested in utilising mixed media such as soundscape recordings; sketching; infographics; video and photographic documentation; crafts/sculptures, and other site-specific practices to investigate our relationship to plants and the land, and to highlight how dichotomies that are taken for granted in some dominant societies such as sacred/profane or nature/culture are illusory and misleading. These practices allow us to enhance sensory apprehension, identifying patterns and come back to our senses, rather than emphasising a purely rationalising approach which invites a language of distance, dissection and black&white thinking.
For instance, based on research I conducted in Nepal with Jagdish Bhatta, Alex Greene and the community of Malikarjun, I developed a representation of the local ritual and agricultural calendar, showing Hindu/Nepali months and seasons alongside Gregorian months. Two agricultural seasons corresponding to the two main sowing and harvest times are visible in white and yellow, respectively. The most important crops are also indicated, namely wheat, corn, rice, barley, and pulses including the culturally important kalaun pea. The timing of the harvest offerings to the land deity Bhumiraj are indicated in the center. Key festivals are marked alongside the Hindu cosmic cycle of Haribodhini and Harishayani.
Home garden sketches I made in the village Malikarjun (far western Nepal) in Spring 2020 while researching the ethnobotany of home gardens and getting to know the most important plants cultivated by the community for food, fodder, medicine, ethnoveterinary medicine, craft, ceremony.
In complete surveys of 10 home gardens we encountered 91 species of fruits, vegetables and other plants were cultivated. Individual households look after around 32–59 species of plants, including grains and legumes and several flowers offered in household rituals (pujas).