Talla­wong’s plant library brings north­west­ern neigh­bours together

Helen Pitt
The Sydney Morning Herald

Grow­ing up in Fair­field, artist Lau­ren Brincat’s Egypt­ian grand­par­ents had a back­yard veg­etable patch, not just to save mon­ey but also to help root them in the soil of Syd­ney suburbia.

It helped make my grand­par­ents feel at home, all the immi­grant fam­i­lies in Fair­field had veg­etable gar­dens … and they swapped seeds many had brought from Europe which helped cre­ate a close com­mu­ni­ty,” said Ms Brin­cat, whose con­tem­po­rary art ranges from video and per­for­mance to sculp­ture and installation.

So when she was com­mis­sioned to devise a work which would cre­ate com­mu­ni­ty around the new Talla­wong Metro Sta­tion in Sydney’s north west, she decid­ed rather than a tra­di­tion­al sculp­ture, to take a leaf out of her grand­par­ents’ book and cre­ate a liv­ing sculp­ture of edi­ble plants. Known as The Plant Library, it will be open adja­cent to the sta­tion at the end of the new train line from Sep­tem­ber 21 to Octo­ber 2 and com­muters will be encour­aged to share their sto­ries in exchange for a seedling.

Like the dri­ver­less trains that now reg­u­lar­ly ply the Metro North­west rail line from Epping to Rouse Hill, many of the new train stops are still devoid of indi­vid­ual per­son­al­i­ties. The art­work, com­mis­sioned by the North­west Places Pro­gram, a part­ner­ship between Land­com and Syd­ney Metro which will see up to 11,000 new homes built over the next 10 years between Epping and Talla­wong sta­tions, is an attempt to change that.

I found in the com­mu­ni­ty at The Ponds and Talla­wong a thirst for want­i­ng to share and get to know their neigh­bours, and what bet­ter way to get to know each oth­er than a seed swap,” she said.

Work­ing with the locals, Ms Brin­cat has cre­at­ed a pair of sculp­tur­al green­hous­es which cat­a­logue the diverse range of edi­ble plants, both indige­nous and immi­grant, grown on the Cum­ber­land Plains. A range of com­mu­ni­ty events such as back­yard con­ver­sa­tions and pick­ling ses­sions run by Marrickville’s Cor­ner­smith café, has brought the com­mu­ni­ty out of their new homes in places like The Ponds, and get­ting dirt under their fin­ger nails. The art project cum com­mu­ni­ty gar­den, has been organ­ised through the Muse­um of Con­tem­po­rary Art’s C3West pro­gram, which brings con­tem­po­rary art to Sydney’s west.

This project has brought togeth­er a diverse range of peo­ple, from sixth gen­er­a­tion seed saver, Annette Jones of Schofields and her vast array of indige­nous plants from the local Darug peo­ple includ­ing a Murnong yam, to Sandeep Pandir, an Indi­an immi­grant with a thriv­ing crop of radish­es in his veg­ie patch. Oth­er local com­mu­ni­ty gar­den­ers, plant enthu­si­asts and experts, have helped gath­er a range of plants from nas­tur­tiums to native figs and gin­ger, elder­ber­ry, lil­li pil­li, paw, paw and red leaf sorrel.

These green­hous­es are a way to speak to the local com­mu­ni­ty, a place to exchange sto­ries about, and expe­ri­ences of, local plants and ones that have been intro­duced to the region. Plants you can eat and use ona day-to-day basis,” Ms Brin­cat said. Plants that are effec­tive­ly immi­grants that Aus­tralia has absorbed into its cul­ture. Peo­ple care more for a place if they have a con­nec­tion with it.”“These green­hous­es are a way to speak to the local com­mu­ni­ty, a place to exchange sto­ries about, and expe­ri­ences of, local plants and ones that have been intro­duced to the region. Plants you can eat and use ona day-to-day basis,” Ms Brin­cat said. Plants that are effec­tive­ly immi­grants that Aus­tralia has absorbed into its cul­ture. Peo­ple care more for a place if they have a con­nec­tion with it.”



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