Thursday, March 25, 2010

Community garden protest Part 2

The Uvic Courtyard has a number of sculptures on permanent display from the Matlwood's modern and contemporary art collection. Elza Mayhew, a UVic alumna and member of the Royal Canadian Academy is featured with large bronze sculptures including "Coast Spirit". Also featured are the totem poles carved by Tony and Henry Hunt, as well as Charles Elliott. 

Around the very ugly 'coast spirit' statue protesters built a garden yesterday. I work on campus. I finished at 7:30 pm and went to see what had been done to the campus lawn. I encountered students planting strawberries in a plot that looked like a pokeball, the tidy beds I had expected, and  a girl who tramped through the muck in high heels singing 'I can garden if I want to, can leave my friends behind...' with those around her shouting lines to rhyme with carrot.

With the crowd gone it was a pleasant little garden. All the ambivalence I had felt towards the act of vandalism felt out of place with regard to the garden. Anarchy I may not like, but I cannot resist fresh soil. I joined the students planting strawberries in the pokeball, to the amusement of my coworker who teased me about being a 'dirty hippy' before going home with his somewhat confused wife. Oh those students!

I talked to the people there. They were hopeful that the garden would remain. One pointed out the turtle-like tendencies of bureaucracy, and the others agreed that it would probably take a week or two before the garden was taken down. It hadn't been taken away yet, after all. The police had been by but had not done anything. It might stay for a few weeks, maybe longer.The University could not remove it until there weren't any students around to get involved.

These people are so naive! So hopeful! Did they really think the campus would let us keep it? I got home thinking that I should bring beans today to plant in the garden. When I arrived at 7:40am it was gone. Of course it was gone.

But that's the brilliant part! I do not know whether it was planned or not but it worked perfectly. Hundreds of students who have never been to the community garden thought that this little piece would stay. I knew it wouldn't and I still became attached. That is exactly what the protest wanted and needed. Here in the center of campus the university has taken away the community garden. Not across the ringroad behind a fence. This garden was real, the more so for it being temporary. I still cannot decide if it was ethical.


Christina said...

I helped dig one of those beds. For no more reason than because spending a couple hours working in a garden seemed like a better use of my time than anything else I had to do that day. I agree, I can't tell if it was ethical or not, but I don't care. It felt right. It felt human. I think that covering it up over-night was sneaky.

Jesse said...

Human is a very good way to put it. For a while I thought what I wanted was simply physical work to balance out with study, but it isn't. It really is gardening particularly and things like it.

Thank you for your comment, Christina.

Ryan L said...

That is one of the most wonderful forms of protest I've ever heard of.

Jesse said...

Thank you for your comment Ryan, I think so too.