Transforming Violence and the Eden Project present:
Cultivating Community: Gardens that Grow Peace and Hope
at the Eden Project Cornwall, England November 6, 2004 - January 31, 2005
Cultivating Community highlighted gardening as a way of building community and transforming violence in ten countries, including some of the most troubled places in the world. It was part of Eden's holiday season programme, A Time of Gifts – a winter festival that celebrates generosity and optimism, reunions, light and fire in darkness, the turning of the year and the returning of the light. Thousands of children visited A Time of Gifts and Cultivating Community with their school classes. People of all ages also came in the evenings for ice-skating, lantern processions, fire displays, performances, and Cultivating Community.
Cultivating Community consisted of:
Shrines: Eden commissioned ten artists to make 'shrines' which celebrated projects that used plants, gardens and earth stewardship to heal divided communities. The shrines were created in the spirit of wayside shrines around the world: decorative, expressive, and made with found or readily available materials. They were installed in Eden's Warm Temperate Biome, a 1.6-acre domed building that houses the plants and landscapes of the Earth's warm temperate zones.
Conversations and storytelling: A beautiful Bedouin-style 'Story Tent' filled with cushions, fabrics and appealing gathering spaces was built to host the conversations and storytelling. Transforming Violence worked with storytellers and guides to develop Eloquent Listening and other conversation formats enabling visitors to delve more deeply into the themes of Cultivating Community. In addition to conversations with others at Eden, there were opportunities for visitors to 'give back' to the projects featured in Cultivating Community by sending a message to people around the world who are involved in the various projects.
A "tabloid newspaper": This was the exhibit program and was festively designed so that it could also be used as gift-wrapping paper. The tabloid/gift wrap told the stories of the projects in Cultivating Community in more detail, including information on how to get involved in local or global projects. It was available free of charge in all of Eden's restaurants and cafes.
The shrines, tabloid and conversations in Cultivating Community celebrated the following projects:
Butterfly Peace Garden, Sri Lanka This is a place of healing for children who have survived atrocities during 30 years of civil war in Sri Lanka. They use play, puppets, mask-making, storytelling, music, and an annual 'community opera' to heal from trauma and forge bonds between children of different ethnicities and religions. In founder Paul Hogan's words, the garden exists to 'accompany the children of Batticaloa on their long journey back home to security, sanity and a sense of well-being'.
Manchester Peace Park, Kosovo. Manchester Aid to Kosovo (MAK) was founded in 1999 by concerned citizens in Manchester, England as an emergency response to the escalating ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. They sent over 1,000 tons of aid to Kosovo and hosted refugees who had seen their family members murdered by 'ethnic cleansing'. Some of the child survivors have spoken widely in schools and churches about ethnic reconciliation, and their story became the core of an exhibition at the Imperial War Museum (North) on Children and War. When the refugees returned to their village in Kosovo, they decided to create the Manchester Peace Park "in honor of all the care and love they received from the people of Manchester".
Rabbis for Human Rights, Olive Tree Campaign, Israel/Palestine. Over 100 Israeli rabbis use their moral authority to support Palestinians who are threatened with violence and the destruction of their orchards and homes. They participate in replanting olive orchards that have been destroyed by the Army or settlers, and help protect Palestinian farmers who are threatened and harassed at harvest time. They also advocate for Israeli policies that represent the traditions and principles of Judaism that support human rights.
Intercultural Gardens, Germany. Refugees grow food, cook for each other, and learn their new common language (German) in gardens located in 14 cities throughout Germany. They come from 40 ethnic groups and have suffered multiple forms of trauma and violence, including losing their homes and everything they owned, often leaving relatives and friends behind in prison or 'disappeared'. The gardens help them rebuild their lives through relationships based on respect and appreciation for each other, despite their circumstances as refugees.
Alchemy Project, Tanzania. The Alchemy Project provides micro-lending for people in refugee camps to enable them to develop businesses including market gardens and animal husbandry that will help them become self-sufficient. As part of a goat-rearing business, entrepreneurs receive a pair of goats to raise and are expected to repay the loan as soon as they reproduce; the kid goes to the next family waiting for goat. In one refugee camp with Hutus, Tutsis and Batwa, the women initiated a tradition of repaying the kid to a family from a different ethnic group in order to promote reconciliation in the wake of the genocide in Rwanda.
Gash Abera Molla, Ethiopia. Street youth in Addis Ababa became known as Trash Zealots as they transformed their city that had been strewn with garbage for decades. Many of them now have a respected role as creators of imaginative urban landscaping and gardens in a city that had suffered severe pollution, poor sanitation and deforestation. The vision of their founder, musician Sileshi Demisse, is of an Ethiopia that is "Clean, green, healthy and prosperous".
Pachamama Alliance, Ecuador The Pachamama Alliance is a collaboration between indigenous people living in the Amazon rainforest and people in the USA who work together to preserve the tropical rainforests by empowering the indigenous people who are its natural custodians. The Achuar people in Ecuador, whose rainforest home is one of the richest sources of biodiversity in the world, have emphasized that one of the most important ways to transform the violence towards ecosystems and indigenous cultures is to "Change the Dream" of consumer-driven societies. The Alliance seeks to discover workable ways in which the knowledge and wisdom inherent in both traditional cultures and the modern world can blend into a new global vision of sustainability for us all.
Brierfield Peace Garden, England. After their friend was murdered in gang violence, a group of British Muslim teens created a garden of reconciliation on a piece of derelict land next on the main street of town next to the youth center. According to Faheem Ali, one of the youth founders, "The garden has played a role in helping to calm the violence down round here. Everyone uses the site, old folk and youngsters, and there's less tension. It's made a difference to people's attitudes because it's something positive."
Flint Urban Gardening, USA. This is a community-wide effort to combat demoralization in a 'Rust Belt' city where massive unemployment, crime, drugs and despair escalated when General Motors automobile plants closed. The gardens gave people a role in revitalizing their own community, created safe public spaces for people to meet, and provided beauty and nutritious food. One police officer said, "If you'd have told me two years ago that we would build gardens to reduce crime and violence in this area I would have said, 'I don't think so!' But, in fact, that's exactly what they have achieved."
The Edible Schoolyard at Martin Luther King Middle School was founded by Alice Waters to reconnect children to growing, harvesting and preparing delicious and nutritious seasonal food. Thousands of public middle school students, representing a wide range of ethnic and class diversity, have participated in creating and caring for the garden. The Edible Schoolyard has also fostered remarkable community involvement, with local volunteers working alongside the students in the kitchen and garden, fundraising, and participating in community work days The students and community have created a distinctive garden that is beautiful, productive and playful. As one 11-year-old said, "Our garden is a place where kids like me can have fun and learn, where we can relax and be who we are and not be afraid." The ultimate goal of the program, to create a nutritious and convivial school lunch program, is now about to be realized through the construction of a kitchen and dining room where children will help prepare school lunches and sit down to eat together. (Berkeley, CA, USA)
Roots and Shoots (a program of the Jane Goodall Institute) helps children establish school gardens in refugee camps, in conjunction with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The children bring food from the gardens to help feed their families, as well as selling it to supplement the family's income. The Roots and Shoots program encourages children to learn about local environmental issues and to take action on issues affecting animals, the environment and the human community. The gardens also provide social contact for children traumatized by conflict by enabling them to be connected to other children living in refugee camps, and to other children involved in Roots and Shoots around the world. (Tanzania and Ethiopia)
The Food Project's mission is to create a thoughtful and productive community of youth and adults from diverse backgrounds who work together to build a sustainable food system. This community produces healthy food for residents of the city and suburbs, provides youth leadership opportunities, and inspires and supports others to create change in their own communities. The Food Project gathers youth and adults from all backgrounds and abilities and gives them the opportunity to contribute purposefully to society by growing food for the hungry and caring for the land. By inviting youth to serve others and to take risks in developing their own leadership, The Food Project offers people of all ages chances to see themselves, others, and the world differently. (Lincoln, MA, USA)