I am doing something big this winter, something I have wanted to do for a very long time. It has sat inside me for years and years as a wish that I never quite believed would happen. Even now, with some of the plane tickets booked, I can barely believe I am really doing this thing.
I am going to spend a month in the West Indies and visit the islands my maternal family is from.
I have never been before. I keep referring to it as my Roots Experience. And yes, I know that name is awful and I am a wee bit embarrassed to write it here for so many people to read; however, I’m yet to come up with a better name. Still, on so many levels that is exactly what it is because this trip is all about getting to the root of my roots. Getting clarity. I hope to track my lineage in public records while there and get to understand half of my genetic/cultural heritage on another level by immersing myself in it.
And yes, this does have a gardening side to it for a few reasons:
1. Over the past few years I’ve been slowly building on a labour of love (yes, another one). It is a gardener portrait project called The Green Minds Project. The goal of this project is to create a series of portraits (photographs and text) that depicts the wide diaspora that is people who grow plants. As a result I have been invited into strangers’ private oases and come to know a little about them through their gardens. What a privilege!
2. The second reason is even more personal to me. I want to see how people garden and grow food in these places as a way to get a clearer picture of where my grandmother may have been coming from in relation to gardening. Now, I’m not naive. I don’t expect that anyone is going to be like my grandmother or represent her state of mind in any way. Yet I know on some level that this experience will help me and create a sense of resolve and deeper understanding of my grandmother and our shared (yet confused) relationship with growing plants.
And so, while in the West Indies, I would very much like to continue The Green Minds Project and photograph a few gardeners in their gardens. As I have said before, I am not specifically looking for grand gardens here. I am looking for all sorts of gardens and all sorts of gardeners from ALL walks of life. What matters most is the passion of the gardener, not the size or scale of the garden.
If you know anyone who lives and gardens on the following islands who would be comfortable inviting me into their home to photograph them and talk about their garden, please get in touch: Barbados, Dominica, Martinique, Guadalupe, St. Lucia.