Diaspora Botanika is a series that explores the emotional, physical, and spiritual landscapes of the artist’s experience of growing up as Polonia w Kanadzie (Polish Canadian). Throughout varying pieces and mediums, the artist seeks to retrace the steps of her family’s migratory journey from Poland to Canada, highlighting their place as members of the diaspora; the dispersion of Poles across the globe, and the ways in which members of the Polish diaspora have preserved their culture while simultaneously formulating a unique cultural identity outside of Poland that transforms with each successive wave of migratory dispersion. In the artist’s view, this dispersion has an uncanny parallel to the concept within botany of a diaspore; a seed dispersal unit that is carried over long distances to enable the blossoming of plants in foreign areas to remediate soil and offer benefits to any ecosystem it happens to enter. Much like seeds scattered across a given landscape, this dispersion of Polish culture has also served as a catalyst for the dispersal of Slavic healing traditions and a reverence for Tradycyjna medycyna; traditional medicine as found in plants given their curative, restorative, and grounding properties. Embedded within the artist’s upbringing was a plethora of cultural teachings via interactions with plants and the seasons, both of which have formally become the artist’s reference point for consolidating lived experiences and interpreting the emotional focal points of her lifetime. Given that the etymology of the word Pole can be translated as “those who tend to the fields”, the artist views her cultural identity and heritage as those who tend to the earth, thus reconciling her upbringing which emphasized plants as not only healing mediums, but conduits of cultural knowledge.
Diaspora Botanika is marriage of two worlds; the healing nature of plants tethered to the cultural customs of a Poland that no longer exists given the resiliency of the Polish nation and its continual transformation since the migration of the artist’s family. The artist seeks to utilize art to highlight the beautiful ceremonial and healing traditions (whose origins lie in Slavic and Catholic traditions) that were transmitted to the artist throughout her upbringing, many of which are still revered and upheld within modern-day Poland. A major focal point within these depictions is the cultural reverence of plants as healers that the artist learned from her prababcia who preserved and relayed much of her upbringing in Zabrnie, Malopolskie within her many talents; quilting, embroidery and sewing, traditional folk-art, oral storytelling, preparation of traditional folk medicines, tending and working the soil, and nurturing others. Mediums within this series arise from the artist’s skill of traditional pencil work: graphite, and the use of wycinanki; (vee-chee-non-key); Polish paper cutting, and pająki (Pah-yonk-ee); mobiles constructed out of dry straw (traditionally rye). Wycinanki and pająki are two traditional Polish folk-art forms introduced to the artist by her prababcia throughout her childhood experiences. The artist fondly recalls her prababcia’s stories of the way that wycinanki brought warmth within the cold seasons as the pasting of bright and intricate paper forms upon the white-washed walls of the traditional wooden home she lived in prevented their stark-white appearance from blending in with the barren landscapes of the long, harsh winters of the Polish countryside. The artist views her process of crafting using these traditional folk-art forms as a ceremony to honour and reconnect with both her prababcia and her heritage.
Woven throughout each of the pieces that make up Diaspora Botanika, is a residual commentary on the relationship of the artist with her prababcia; great grandmother, dziadkowie: grandparents, and her ojciec; father. These relationships within the artist’s life are ones that deepened within adolescence and continually take on new meaning. The artist not only credits these relationships for fostering much of her growth as an individual but seeks to acknowledge the way that they shaped much of her view of the world and of herself. Themes highlighted within this series are the ways that language, the mother tongue, nurtures future generations given its role as a conduit for the transmission of culture, identification of self, and instructs distinct ways of interacting within the world. Within the artist’s personal experiences, her exposure to, reclamation, and deepening of her understanding of the beautiful language of her family; Polish, has not only enhanced her appreciation of the customs her family carried with them but has assisted her in decoding the ancestral DNA; subconscious intracellular memories, inherited by the artist from her family. It is the artist’s belief after her formal studies on the science behind epigenetic changes and the resulting memories that are encoded within our DNA, that our ancestors’ memories become our own, making us the carriers of their legacies. These key concepts serve as the artist’s uniting foundation for exploring and recreating the emotional and spiritual complexities that emerge for individuals existing between distinct, cultural identities. It is the artist’s hope that this visual process of exploration may serve as an acknowledgement of the inevitable grief that also accompanies the erosion of culture that occurs within many immigrant families with the passing of each generation, and the loss of these carriers of cultural knowledge.
Thus, Diaspora Botanika seeks to transform the grief of the passing of our ancestors; those who become the living embodiment of our cultural identity, into a celebration and acknowledgement of their physical return to the elements of the earth as a transformative process to become the healers that nurtured our ancestors and that which continue to nurture each generation there forth: plants. Therefore, Diaspora Botanika can be said to be an exploration of being Polonia w Kanadzie through the connectivity of plants and greater mycelial networks and their connection to one’s cultural identity and ancestors; those who tend to the land. Diaspora Botanica seeks to recreate art that speaks of the celebrations of the artist’s heritage/cultural identity as acts of attunement that draws one closer to the seasons, and the varying ceremonies that celebrate the earth, where the very essence and efforts of her ancestors still cling.