The Anthropology department at Wits has started a courtyard project to encourage public engagement.

George Mahashe, a Wits Social Anthropology lecturer, who designed the wooden structure under Defunct Context.
Photo: Gemma Gatticchi.

The Wits Anthropology museum is hosting a garden project called Ejaradini, in the Robert Sobukwe courtyard, to stimulate conversation about Black urban gardening, from April 18 to June 21.

Molemo Moiloa and Nare Mokgotho, from MADEYOULOOK (MYL), a dual artist collaboration in Johannesburg, conceptualised the project as part of an installation at the Joburg Art Gallery last year. 

“Black gardening is one such practice that is largely disregarded but has significant potential for considering Black relationships to land,” Moiloa told Wits Vuvuzela.

“Gardening in the form we know it now is a colonial practice … in the form of the so-called ‘garden boy’. But for people gardening in their own homes in townships, gardens have historically become spaces of pleasure and family, of sustenance through growing food, of care and spiritual fulfilment”, she added. 

MYL called the garden Ejaradini, an isiZulu word that makes reference to a specific kind of small-scale township yard. 

The garden exhibit is hosted below a wooden structure known as the defunct context, and includes a display of a collection of archival images reflecting Black gardening activities from the 1950s. The wooden structure includes detailing by Brigitta Stone-Johnson, a lecturer from the Wits School of Architecture and Planning.

Ejaradini, a garden exhibit by MADEYOULOOK, in the Robert Sobukwe courtyard at Wits, aims to open conversation around 1950s black gardening practises.Photo: Gemma Gatticchi

Mahashe, who is also convener of the anthropology museum told Wits Vuvuzela, “Before this, it was a concrete jungle, so the wooden structure is supposed to soften the hard concrete currently in the space … Ejaradini is centred around this wooden structure”.

Mahashe said the garden is a way for his department to start thinking about contemporary practises of exhibition making, ideas about the conceptualisation of a museum space on the outside in a way that will encourage public engagement.

The collection of plants in the space have been sourced from various Black-owned nurseries and urban farmers. These plants represent everything from being a source of food, to having medicinal and spiritual significance.

When the exhibit ends in June some of the plants will return to their owners, and others will go to various farmers in Soweto.