ARA Trees

Meetings with trees in Johannesburg published

Yesterday the online, open access publication Meetings with Remarkable and Unremarkable Trees in Johannesburg and Environs, published by ARA (Arts Research Africa) at Wits University in Johannesburg was officially launched with an event on zoom. The publication itself is openly available here, ; there is an online version and a print-on-demand version for ‘self-printing’. The publication is the result of my ARA residency about this time last year, which was interrupted by the pandemic. Originally we had the plan of organising a screening consisting of some of the video works made together with the trees introduced to me by generous colleagues. Now it feels like this option, a publication, which was a surrogate at first, is in many ways much better, since it a) remains and b) is accessible to more people.

The launching event was quite fascinating, too, organised by professor Christo Doherty, who had invited some of the contributors to say a few words: Manola Gayatri Kumarswamy, Myer Taub, Donald McCallum and Busisiwe Mahlangu. And some of the reviewers, too, I guess, and experts in the field like Anna Birch and Mareli Stolp. They all had beautiful presentations, questions and comments, but I want to remember especially the idea Manola mentioned, about the tree as a kind of ‘third space’, which enabled meetings across differences without focusing on those differences, or that is how I understood it. And then one of the points Myer took up, the poem by Brecht from 1939, which he quoted: “What kind of times are these, when to talk about trees is almost a crime because it implies silence about so many horrors?” That poem I remember very well from a Finnish political song in the 1970’s. And somehow it feels like these are such times again…

By Annette Arlander

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