A duet across the Atlantic. Exhibited in Ninguém teria acreditado / No one Would Have Believed, Pinacoteca Sao Paulo Brazil. 2021-22
A duet across the Atlantic between two esteemed weedworts that have long histories as anti-fertility plants in West Africa and Latin America. Sorrow Seed, performed by Elisângela Rita in Luanda, is Momordica charantia, known then and now as an abortifacient, a plant taken across to Brazil by enslaved West Africans. Guiné Weed, performed by Tatí de Tatiana in Sao Paulo, is Petiveria alliacea, a plant recorded to have been used by enslaved African women to end unwanted pregnancies. Both plants have a profusion of vernacular names, attesting to their long usefulness as medicinal plants. In the duet the weedworts sing out their many names, speak of weediness and stealth, of yard plants and clandestine uses, of bitterness as a signifier, of toxicity and careful preparations.
(Weedworts is a portmanteau of weed – for weediness is a characteristic of many medicinally useful plants that thrive in the company of humans – and wort – an ancient English suffix for plants that were useful medicinally – birthwort, barrenwort, feverwort)
The work is an audio installation in the exhibition Ninguém teria acreditado / No One Would Have Believed, Pinacoteca, Sao Paulo, Dec 2021-March 2022. The audio installation is in a combination of Portuguese and English.
Song of Sorrow-Seed (c)Wendy Morris July 2021 My name is Bitter, my name is Pungent My name is Short-Lived - but I live well My name is Grow-Fast and Bide-Time My name is Bide-Time, Grow-Fast and Short-Lived though I have been here longer than you can remember You barely speak of me and my names escape you but, woman, I lurk in your memory we are old companions Root-cutters, healers and midwives know me, know my smell, taste my bitter where women go, I go old world new world I know no interruption Senegal to Sierra Leone Guinea-Bissau to Côte d’Ivoire yombebute, sapodila, nania-nania Ghana to Togo, Benin and Nigeria atanyaran, guessikan, ejinrin In Cameroon they grind seeds with spittle to a paste, a plug, a pessary to purge unwanted fruit, and call me Miss Efficient miracle vine, bitter melon, sorrow seed I am a pestiferous weed a slender vine, spreading, strong smelling I flourish on your rubbish heaps, your parking lots, your battlefields I gatecrash your yard I run amok Strangle-Crop and Broken-Back quickweed, bindweed, vagabond I may be guilty by association dubious by the company I keep but when you need me, woman, I am here Congo, Congo to Angola, limbuzi, limbuzi-buzi, lumbuzua-mbuzua embusabusu, buzu-buzu, dimbunza, dimbussimbussi, lemboshaboshi, lenzaa, maboumboulou, mabunbulu, mambuzu, mbossa-mboussi Curandeira, midwife, mãe-de-santo old world new world word of mouth Brazil to Suriname, Guyana to Guatemala melao de Sao Caetano pomme de merveille, bakulu sopropo purgative, pesticide, vermifuge Jamaica and Haiti, Trinidad, Tobago asosi, sorossi, ce-ra-see, sorrow seed emmenagogue, abortifacient, contraceptive giddy-giddy, from Antigua to Louisiana scarlet-seeded maiden-blush cunde amor…cunde amor grande erva-de-lavaderia, wash-a-woman-bush Wandering Weedwort, pantropical vine archaeophyte, neophyte, journey-weed Strangle-Crop and Broken-Back quickweed, bindweed, vagabond I may be guilty by association dubious by the company I keep but when you need me, woman, I am here.
Concept, writing, composing: Wendy Morris (South Africa), Mariske Broekmeyer / singer, composer (Belgium)
Sorrow Seed: Elisangelo Rita / poet (Angola)
Guiné Weed: Tatí de Tatiana / performer (Brazil)
Posters: Ellen Bilterest
Curators: Pinacoteca: Fernanda Pitta (Brazil) Laurens Dhaenens (Belgium)
Also: Pieternel Vermoortel (Belgium), Paula Nascimento (Angola) / curators. Rachel O’Connell / political sciences (USA), Barbara Bush / social and political studies (UK) / researchers, authors.
Funding: Pinacoteca, Flanders State of the Art, LUCA-Arts, Netwerk Aalst
The work becomes a part of the Herball for a Midwife.