Karlie King: A Note on Intangible Culture

When I tell people about the Lashburn School Garden, many ask “What does that have to do with art?” And while I do think there is an art to gardening, I divert the question to “intangible culture”.

During our Animateur Orientation, it was put forth that this year we might turn our focus to Intangible Culture — the invisible ‘stuff’ that makes up the visible, touchable ‘stuff’ of culture.

So, now the dialogue with students looks something like this:

I ask “What is Culture?”
They answer by giving me every example under the sun, but never actually define it.
I tell them they are all correct and that “Everything is Culture.”
I add the metaphor of a fish swimming in water. “Does it know it’s swimming in water?  No. Just like you don’t know you are swimming in your own Culture.”
And now I further add “And how do the examples of Culture you provided come to be?” … “Who braided your hair this morning? How do they know how to braid?” … “Those home made cookies you have in your lunchbox? Who made them? Where did they get that recipe?” … “Who here knows how to ride a horse, or take care of a horse?  Now how did you learn that?”

… And this is my segue into gardening. “How many of you have a garden at home?” 90% of the class raise their hands. “Who tends the garden?” They tell me. “Do they take an instruction manual?” A resounding “No.” “Well, then how do they know what they are doing?  How do they walk out to garden patch and know what they are doing?”

And the light bulbs go off. I see a glimmer of understanding in their eyes…. That! is Intangible Culture.

I further this discussion with the students by telling them that for the duration of this project (and hopefully henceforth) they are going to start collecting Gardening Wisdom. They are going to start talking to the gardeners in their family and ask them for any ‘tips” that will help with the success of our garden.

I then supply a few examples from my (albeit limited) experience with gardening. I tell them about a second cousin (who is an incredible farmer) who only seeds by the moon. He suggests planting seeds on full moon, not because of the light (as most presume) but because of the full moon’s potential for drawing water to the surface of the earth. I tell them about the little old lady who took one look at my garden and asked “Where are the flowers? You need flowers so the pollinators come.” I tell them about the ‘three sisters’: how the First Nation people of Southern States have always grown corn, beans, and squash together.  They do this because as the corn grows the beans wrap themselves around the stalk and flourish from the corn’s strength, and the squash spreads at the ground’s surface to protect the soil and plants from dehydration. I reiterate that certain plants like growing together and others do not. And we need to know this kind of information. So they need to ask the gardeners in their families.

We’ve started to collect these pearls wisdom on recipe cards, and I imagine that with time we will have quite the arsenal of Gardening Wisdom.

I end this conversation with the students of Lashburn by reiterating that we really are a Gardening Culture. “If I was in downtown Toronto,” I query, “how many kids would put up their hands when I ask who has a garden?” Not very many I suspect.

Although I think it is a right to be able to grow one’s own food, to have access to fresh, untampered pesticide-herbicide free food, it is fast becoming a privilege more than a right in this world.  So I remind the students how important this is, that we preserve the Intangible Culture of Gardening.

Yarn Bombing: A Family Affair

Todayphoto-5 photo-6 I taught 28 students how to knit.

The Grade 8 and 9 Home Ec students of Waldheim School are learning to knit and crochet so that they can yarn-bomb the trees that line the front of their school.

They are to pick a tree on school property and invite a friend and/or family member (who knows how to knit and crochet) to join them in this endeavour. These small groups of yarn bombers will be meeting regularly throughout the summer so as to practice their knitting and crocheting, and to make ‘blocks’ in preparation for yarn-bombing.


Shekinah Art Adventure

For twenty-two years a group of approximately 15 – 20 female Textile Artists have been gathering one weekend a year (usually in the Qu’Appelle Valley) for an Art Retreat. They call it the Shekinah Art Adventure.

This year they gathered at the Edam Hunting Lodge around the last weekend of May. I attended the Retreat on Saturday and Sunday, and spoke to almost all of the ladies about Culture Days.

Many were interested in having their artistic craft skills included in Culture Days. Further, one lady was particularly interested in collaborating as soon as possible in preparation for said event. As is often the case, this lady is not limited to one ‘art world.’ She not only is a Fibre Artist she runs the North Battleford Community Theatre. So, Kevin might be getting a call too in the near future.

Meetings & Gatherings

Bonnie Mills-Midgely, Community Development Coordinator for the Rivers West DSCR, has invited me to a few of their meetings, and I must say these gatherings have been invaluable.

The first meeting was in North Battleford, on April 22. My contemporary, Kevin Power, was also in attendance.

The meeting was informal. We went around the room and introduced ourselves and spoke of what we hoped to garnish from the gathering. Both Kevin and I not only introduced SK Culture Days to the group, but we also got to speak about our own repertoire of capabilities, our hopes for Culture Days, and offered our services to those who were interested.

Again, this kind of networking is invaluable. Many at the meeting were unaware of the role that Animateurs play in SK Culture Days, and were happy and interested to hear of how we can facilitate the celebration of their communities. Some, surprisingly, did not know about Culture Days at all. While others were eager to provide their business card and book us for an event.

After attending a few of these meetings, I definitely suggest further attendance for future Animateurs. They are a great way to advertise, network, and ‘get things on the go!’photo-7

A School Garden

I stand to be corrected, but we may have a “SK First” here… all because of Culture Days.

Arising out of one of the meetings with Rivers West, Susan Plant, Principal of Lashburn Elementary School, called me and asked me to help her actualize a vision she has for her school.

She wants a School Garden.

There are two spaces surrounding the school that she wants transformed into gardens. At the front of the school is a large flat area that will be Vegetable Garden. Created by Students, Maintained by Students, Harvested by Students.
And at the entrance of the school there is a triangle patch that will be transformed into a colourful, bright, planter garden (using up-cycled materials).

I am not sure, but I think the Vegetable Garden may be a first. I have not heard of a Saskatchewan school having its very own garden (created, planted, maintained, and harvested by students). …. You should have seen the look on the students face when I told them they could come eat peas whenever they felt like it! A combo of surprise and delight.photo-8