Reclaim the Seeds Festival, Nijmegen 2023
I was always wandering why there are no fruit trees in the dutch cities.
some are answering:
"It's because the apples would absorb all the dirty smog and become poisonous"
"It's because the fallen fruits would attract rats and make them spread"
"It's because no body would pick them and it would be a waste and a lot of dirt on the streets"
"it's because they want us to buy apples in the shops!"
I remember as kids we spend most of our day roaming through the neighbourhood picking all sort of barrie's and fruits from bushes and trees. Now its bird cherry, now apricots, now apples. Here you have to pull down the branch, here to dive into a bush, here to climb on the tree. Through this engagement the city became somehow our extended living room (or kitchen). It feels to me that's gathering food from your surroundings creates a special connection to it.
With this project I want to invite everyone to come together and plant some apple trees in the city centre of Nijmegen. It is on one hand an act of participation in the shaping of our environment on the other a nice way to make our city more eatable.
We meet on the Sunday 2nd of April In de Klinker in Nijmegen.
The apple trees are provided by @jadereforestry where they are crafted and grown in nature inclusive ways. As high stem trees they can reach an age of more than hundred years old when taken care of.
Dimitri van den Wittenboer
Reclaim the Seeds Nijmegen NL
In the weekend before the festival we came together at de Klinker in Nijmegen to plant 20 apple trees in the city. The high stem trees were kindly provided by the alternative nature forestry (www.jadereforestry.com)
About 15 citizens of Nijmegen showed up in the morning. We started with a coffee and a conversation about what would be the best place in the center to plant trees.
"This is activism we should make a statement that the city belongs to us and that we want more decision power about its shaping, we want it more green and eatable. We should plant the trees in most urbanised places! In the roundabout and close to that new statue in the center!"
" I disagree, if we plant the trees there, they will be removed my the government next day. Yes we want to make a statement but we should not sacrifice the trees for it" Let's plant the in park and places where they blend in and can survive!"
" I think we should have met not in the center where the citizens are reach and can afford fresh fruits anyways, but in low income neighbourhoods. There, we with our action could transform the a whole space and make it more nice and help people with it! Maybe something to think about next time!"
I prepared little boards to put next to the trees where the participants could write why the tree is here from the prospective of the tree.
- I am here because:
"I bring love and nourishment to the world"
"let's care about the planet and share"
On our journey through the city centre we encountered curious citizens.
What are you doing?
We are planting apple trees, would you like to help taking care of this one?
Many people who we met agreed to take responsibility for the young trees and some even joined us on our further journey.
The most fascinating thing for me was how illegal it felt to dig into the gras carpet in the park to plant an apple tree. I tfelt like breaking the law by destroying someone's property.
"What if the tree falls on someone?"
"What if the roots destroy a gas or a water pipe?"
"What if we disturb the vegetation?"
Someone:" You will get a huge fine for this if they catch you!"
Is this the feeling that the top down city development creates for us? A feeling of importance and impossibility to engage with our environment for not being knowledgeable enough - supported by the fear of legal consequences?
It was inspiring to work with activist who have experience in "disobeying the law", have an informed opinion about public matters and do not fear to disagree.
"Of course we can plan apple trees, if they destroy whole forests to build roads"
Guerilla and Community Gardening has a long history and many ecological activist are involved in it. One inspiring example is the The Food Forest in the Sloterpark, Amsterdam.
This made me think why I want to frame 1000 apple trees as art and if it's even necessary to think in this categories.
When I was developing the idea my vision was to invite people to experience their engagement in the ecological space of the city, otherwise, to experience agency that is usually not give to us, or needs a long bureaucratic procedure to be realised. It can take a long time to get a permission to plant a tree in a park. And in most cases it won't work or be strictly regulated.
We meet a person at the playground:
" We also have planted trees here, but the government does not allow them to be higher that 2 meters, they come to check.
In our project we just do it, maybe we fail, maybe the trees get removed maybe they don't get pollinated right and get no fruits, maybe it's to late in the year already and they will not integrate properly. While it is true that we might waste resources I also think that it is beautiful that we do it anyways. We don't have the perfect knowledge or plan, and learn while doing it playfully from eachother, from people we encounter and through the conversations afterwards. This playfulness maybe is what makes it art and makes it distinct from community gardening.
To do it together was a beautiful moment of freedom and hope. I am hit by the aesthetical moment when I turn around and see us, all kinds of people, friends and strangers who just met an hour ago carrying 3 m trees through the city center- it's beautiful, we are doing it here and now! Collective action as art; a subject - material of art; a space of art. with the same playfulness, fantasy, and vibrancy as art. it's beautiful.
In the end isn't art always a revolution against established ways? in sound with music; in language with poetry; in visual experience with painting; why not in collective city live with an action like this?
But why is it so important to call it art? One could say this is just small scale activism. There is basically no difference to similar actions in that field. I feel that it is important to call it art and to broaden our understanding of art and say that such activist actions that invite people (who at are not necessarily involved with activism) to constructively challenge their position in society through action - should be seen as art. art in the sense of culture, our culture that deserves visibility and attention because it challenges and broadens the understanding of who we are and how we act in this world.
I would like to thank all the participants this inspiring time, for sharing space knowledge and resources.