Malnad Mela is an annual celebration organised by Vanastree – a women’s seed collective based in Sirsi, Karnataka. The Bangalore edition of the mela happened over a weekend in January 2017, where small scale producers directly engaged with consumers. Initiatives like Namma Angadi, Honneru Rural Youth Collective/Punarchith, Desi, Vanya, Karadi Betta, Buffalo Back Collective, Karnataka Alliance for Safe Food, Anando, SOIL and The Crafts Studio came together to display and share their produce, creations and stories.
Malnad Mela had a charged atmosphere while retaining an old world pace and flavour. It was a space for gathering, sharing, celebration and reflection and also an important way for the community to appreciate the biocultural wealth of the Western Ghats. The mela facilitated an environment of participation and conversation, with trade not being the primary motive. Many pressing issues of the times were raised and discussed in real time and space in these interactions between the producer and the consumer.
Nature and art for everyone
Artecology took part in the Malnad Mela through ‘Vanaseed’, a stall set up for people to immerse themselves in the sensual world of seeds by creating installations and artwork at the Mela itself. There was plenty of material to play with – seeds and pods collected over months of roaming around the forests of the Western Ghats, and from parks and streets in Bengaluru. We had Gulmohar, Tamarind, Mahogany, Indian Iron Tree, Nux vomica, Entada and a host of others, adding up to more than thirty species of seeds. All the necessary tools and equipment needed and that were child safe were also laid out on tables inviting anyone to join in.
The stall was an interactive space where individuals could play with the different textures of seeds and also create their own art work. Tamarind seeds invoked many memories of playing the Alagunimane and spending summer holidays with grandparents in the village. The huge Entada seed captured many people’s attention. They were also mesmerised by the flying mahogany seed. Children of all ages took part and created murals, thoranams, and seed mobiles. Those who did not get into creating objects, shared curious facts and asked questions about seeds. The space was constantly abuzz with activity and conversation and there was something to learn and cherish for everyone.
While some children drew pictures of cars, ships and planes on card board sheets and stuck different shaped seeds to bring them to life, many young minds and hands created 3D structures of insects and reptiles. What was fascinating was having a few children bring back beetle-like seeds filled in their tiny palms, after their creative time at the Vanaseed stall. They had collected them fromthe Golden Bead School playground where the Malnad Mela wasbeing held. A botanist who visited the stall was amazed at this unique seed and was keen on knowing what species it belonged to.
Many parents walked down the memory lane looking at the bright Manjari seeds (Red Sandalwood seeds) They reminisced about their childhood when the path to their schools was laden with these trees. Collecting these bright jewels fallen along the way formed treasured moments of their past and young days. Their children were told the sad story of the present trend of felling these trees thus robbing several generations (including the current one) of an integral part of childhood and growing up with treasured tree friends .
A few artists already working with seeds and pods also took part and created interesting installations. They had experience using seeds as part of nature walks, nature journals and other activities with children in schools. They took back with them many more interesting ways of connecting people and plants.
The Bengaluru public was extremely supportive of this initiative with their participation and generous contributions. Artecology managed to raise a handsome contribution for Vanastree. The women forest gardeners and seed savers of Vanastree play a tremendous role as stewards of biodiversity conservation. Our contribution was to celebrate with them and help support and appreciate their work.
If you or anyone you know is interested in creating awareness about your neighbourhood trees in Bengaluru, Artecology is happy to share our collection of seeds with you. You can contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org