Keepers of the Soil

Part of the North Light Arts Fellowship

2021-22 Dunbar; Is soil alive?

The Keepers of the Soil project was conceived as a way to celebrate the incredible life supporting substance of soil in a participatory way during a year long residency with North Light Arts.

The cape was stitched by many people by hand during workshops and events and its use was developed during the year according to community requests and external events such as the World Congress of Soil Science.

This project focusses on our relationship with the soils around us and reframes it as important, celebratory and ceremonial. Those who look after the soil carefully and with sustainable practices in mind through eg. organic growing, agro-ecology, or rewilding projects are invited to wear and be photographed in the cape.

The naturally dyed woollen cape, embroidered with detailed imagery of the soil food web ranging from microscopic creatures to mammals, plants and humans shows our vital dependence for food on this mostly overlooked substance. Worldwide research shows that between 30-70% of global arable soils are now contaminated, eroded or paved over thus reducing their capacity to produce food.

The wider project surrounding the Keepers of the Soil cape aims to involve as many people as possible either by collecting soil samples within the cape, sharing their stories at events or readings or taking part in community events and festivals. Initially conceived as part of Pilgrimage for COP26 , thirteen people collected sixteen soils from the Central Belt along the route, seen here in the documentation booklet Keeper of the Soils

The Keepers of the Soil project photographs can still be seen at the Rainbow Garden, Dunbar and will tour to the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh and Loving Earth, Dunbar Town House exhibition in Autumn 2022.

The project was supported through Creative Scotland.

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