Saturday, December 13, 2008

Guerillas in Johannesburg

I recently became aware of a movement that is gaining worldwide momentum, called guerrilla gardening. People who find that their local government is neglecting public spaces like those along roads or in public parks and so on, take it upon themselves to garden there... sometimes going there in the middle of the night to plant something beautiful (using great phrases like "munition" for plants. Quite delightful).

I often read a blog by someone in London who is very involved in it, Richard Reynolds. I kind of remember (I find out about them reading one day, in this article) that he got started by gardening the flower beds in front of his apartment block, because it had been neglected. And then he got into trouble for doing it (and the saga continues, you can read more on his blog).

Anyway, I bring all this to your attention because he was recently in Johannesburg, passing on info about his tactics. He met with some local guerrilla gardeners, who showed him their work along the M1.

It seems that people are planting indigenous plants, and thinking about water usage. I know that when I lived there, local municipalities were quite good about keeping public areas attractive, so hopefully South African guerrilla gardeners will not have too much work to do. Richard managed to find somewhere to do a mission, however, while at the Hector Pieterson Museum. He found a little time to plant seeds in an earth strip that points to the spot where Hector was shot (for more info on Hector Pieterson, read this). He planted sunflowers, which I think is rather fitting considering how far we've come since Hector's time: sunflowers for the darkness which we've left behind but also because there are people who care enough to make the effort of taking care of space that they share with their neighbours.

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