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From Corn Dollies to Illicit Foraging: New Art Exhibition Explores Connection to Land, Food and Tradition

A major new art exhibition, exploring and interrogating our relationship with food in a rapidly changing world, launched today at the Eden Project in Cornwall, June 2, 2023.


Serge Attukwei Clottey - Noko Y3 Dzen (Something in the world), 2018-2019


Acts of Gathering showcases diverse pieces from internationally renowned artists including Jonathan Baldock, Serge Attukwei Clottey, Jumana Manna, Maria Nepomuceno, Uriel Orlow, Nina Royle & Lucy Stein.

The exhibition invites visitors to delve into the ceremonies and practices surrounding food production, harvesting and sharing, across different cultures.

Performances, songs, storytelling and symbolic objects connect different cultures to the land. Corn dollies, traditional weaving, repurposed plastic containers and painted murals vividly depict these relationships.

The exhibition serves as a catalyst for thought-provoking discussions on the politics surrounding these practices and why some are supported while others are marginalised and impacted by globalisation and industrial farming.

Acts of Gathering strives to bridge the gap between visitors and these relationships with food and encourages them to consider their own connection to the food they consume and its origins.

Eden’s Senior Arts Curator, Misha Curson, said: “We are connected to the earth through the food that nourishes and heals us every day and in turn, our growing and harvesting practices shape the health of our lands for future generations.  

“In an era of climate change, soil degradation, water pollution, seed monopolies, hyper-globalised food systems and reduced land access, our relationship with food has become increasingly disconnected. The vulnerabilities of modern supply chains and the impact of industrialised farming are becoming increasingly exposed.  

“Acts of Gathering presents a number of thought-provoking artworks that reflect on the customs and practices surrounding food, it invites visitors to consider on how food cultures can strengthen our connections to each other and the land”  

A series of workshops and interactivities will allow visitors to engage deeper with each piece beyond observation.

A series of workshops and interactivities will allow visitors to engage deeper with each piece beyond observation.

Kent-born artist Jonathan Baldock’s Corn Dolly I, II, III & V (2012), is a series of masks inspired by corn dollies, which are traditionally made from the last sheaf of corn cut at harvest. The spirit of the corn is thought to inhabit the dolly once the field has been harvested, with different shapes historically associated with varying counties across the UK.

Ghanaian artist, Serge Attukwei Clottey, uses found materials from his hometown of Accra to explore narratives encompassing trade, food and migration. His striking Noko Y3 Dzen (Something in the world) (2019–20) recycles yellow oil containers - called Kufuor gallons - that are cut up and stitched together on a large scale, draped and hanging within the gallery space.

Better Days are Coming (2016 – 2021) is an audio piece by Clottey that takes its title from the harvest festival ‘Homowo’ – a remembrance of famine that once befell pre-colonial Ghana and is once again impacting farmers as a consequence of climate change.

Brazilian artist Maria Nepomuceno’s Você me alimenta (You feed me) (2022) uses traditional weaving and basketry techniques to create complex sculptures of straw, fabric and ceramic that take on organic forms. Visitors will be invited to take part in workshops to make small clay sculptures, directed by the artist, to be given to the artwork as an act of feeding it.

Uriel Orlow, an artist from Switzerland, creates pieces that engage with colonialism, memory and social and ecological justice. Learning From Artemisia (2019–20) is a mixed media piece focusing on the traditional medicinal plant, Artemisia afra – or African wormwood – traditionally used to prevent and treat malaria. Daily servings of artemisia tea, which has a range of health benefits, will be offered to visitors to immerse them further within this piece. 

Local artists Nina Royle and Lucy Stein’s Crying the Neck (2023) represents the Cornish tradition, which has roots in Wicca, that takes place when the last sheaf of corn is cut at the end of the farming year. The ritual is rooted in the belief that the spirit of the last crop of corn harvested should be honoured. The work is presented as a harvest table adorned with objects, including paintings, an Ogham alphabet banner, corn dollies and books. Akin to an altar, it’s both a celebration of a time of harvest a well as a mourning of the passage of time from one fertile time of year to another dark half.

Eden’s Arts Curator, Hannah Hooks, said: “Acts of Gathering is a celebration of the nature in which community and ritual shape the ways in which peoples grow, gather and share food - and what those acts mean to both the history and future of community.

“We are really grateful to all of the artists and galleries in helping bring this exhibition together. We hope it can shed a light on how ancient traditions and rituals – and those still practiced today - can inspire new ways of understanding what  connection to the land that bears the food we all consume means.”

The exhibition will be complemented by a series of satellite events including a screening of Foragers (2022) by Palestinian visual artist and filmmaker Jumana Manna at CAST in Helston from 5 – 30 September. The film depicts the practice of foraging for wild edible plants in Palestine/Israel, such as the artichoke-like ‘akkoub and za’atar. Israeli nature protection laws prohibit the foraging of these native plants, alienating Palestinians from their land and sustainable harvesting practices.

Acts of Gathering is curated by Eden’s Senior Arts Curator Misha Curson and Arts Curator Hannah Hooks and can be found in the Core Gallery at the Eden Project in Cornwall from today, June 2, until January 3, 2024.

Access to the gallery is included in admission. Visit to find out more and book.

Taking place alongside the exhibition, at CAST:

Jumana Manna’s feature-length film Foragers depicts the dramas around the practice of foraging for wild edible plants in Palestine/Israel. Shot in the Golan Heights, the Galilee and Jerusalem, it employs fiction, documentary and archival footage to portray the impact of Israeli nature protection laws on these customs.

Restriction laws prohibit the collection of the artichoke-like akkoub and the herb za’atar and have resulted in fines and trials for hundreds caught collecting these native plants. Whilst Israeli state representatives insist on the need for these laws for environmental protection, Palestinians maintain that they constitute an ecological veil for legislation that alienates them from their land and their culinary practices.

The film follows the plants from the wild to the kitchen, documenting the pursuit of the foragers by the nature patrol and the foragers’ courtroom defences. It captures the joy and knowledge embodied in these foraging traditions alongside their resilience to the prohibitive law.

The film also raises questions around the politics of extinction; who determines what is made extinct and what gets to live on.

The film is presented as part of Acts of Gathering.