Remember Our Ancestral Tree^

Ayutthaya . Thailand . 06Jul18
Burnside Farm . Detroit . 29Sep2018

As Thais, we believe that spirits live in old trees.  Oftentimes, we wrap cloths around them to signify that spirits inhabit these trees.  At other sites in Thailand facing deforestation, monks respond by ordaining trees residing within the endangered forest.  They wrap orange robe around the trunk of the largest or oldest trees to ward off further cuttings.  

On 29 Sep, I made a pilgrimage to pay my respect to “Grandfather Maple”, a patriarchal tree that anchors the grounds of Burnside Farm in Detroit Michigan, with a performance entitled Remember our Ancestral Tree.  I was inspired by a photo of Grandpa Maple that was shared with me by my dear friend Kate who runs Burnside.  The photo depicted Grandpa Maple’s presence and how he cared for the land in the midst of the fallen house in the foreground.

The performance engaged with the Burnside community on a meditative journey of remembering our ancestors. The evening began with storytelling intwined with a film screening entitled Flower Remember Yearto contextualize my performance of simple gestures in offering food to Grandpa Maple and wrapping a hand-dyed discarded fabric around the sacred tree. In the spirit of healing, the performance concluded with a communal meal that I’d prepared to honor the tree, the ancestors of this land and our personal ancestors.

My performance at Burnside took a huge step.  It transitioned my personal rituals, like the one undertook in the film, to a communal one which cultivated a shared experience with others.  The situation I created made way for us to come together to remember our ancestors, to touch the land that we stand on, to honor it. The tree becomes metaphors for these generational threads.

With food gathered from Burnside Farm and purchased at Eastern Market (a huge farmer’s market in Detroit), I began to make food for our communal meal and to make an offering to Grandfather Maple.  

I cook intuitively with heart and passion.