Over Grassroots

With the Grassroots project, de Onkruidenier explores the relationship between a cultural institution and the social capital of the Spangen neighborhood. We zoom in on grasses that grow spontaneously, the stories they tell from their unique characteristics and zoom out again to learn to understand the neighborhood from different perspectives, both human and non-human. 

Grassroots is a project by artist collective the Onkruidenier in collaboration with A Tale of A Tub, which is located in the Justus van Effen complex in Spangen, Rotterdam. Grassroots is made possible by theVriendenLoterij Fonds.

Seeds for (x)change

In the second phase of the Grassroots project: Seeds for (x)change, de Onkruidenier unfolds a (social) ecosystem in which (x)change is central. With the creation of an exhibition, public programme and outdoor sculpture de Onkruidenier opened up for a wider public to join the Grassroots ecosystem. When we observe and look more closely at grass, are we able to better care for our neighborhood? Can grass connect us?

Because when you look at grasses, you see one of the most common plant species in the Netherlands. If you look at grass even closer, this plant species is rooted and intertwined with all sorts of themes from our daily lives: from our food system to culture, from migration to politics and from economy to a changing climate.

With Seeds for (x)change, the Onkruidenier takes time to reflect on these global systems by highlighting grasses in Spangen on a hyperlocal level. What does grass mean in Spangen and in other parts of the world? What is the value of grass at the trade market, for a botanist or as an ingredient in the kitchen? We take a look at the different worlds hidden behind the grasses of Spangen. Can we see grasses as storytellers of complex (global) food and climate issues?

From different (grass) perspectives, de Onkruidenier explored how grasses locally create a different form of exchange and connect us socially. From the hairy love grass to wall barley. From taxonomy to trade winds. From a book of hours to street culture.

Photo’s by LNDWstudio

Tasting the grassroots of Spangen

On March 20 de Onkruidenier hosted the Grassroots Tasting at A Tale of A Tub. This second event as part of the Grassroots project, was all about the transition from the winter period into spring. In the South and East of the Netherlands this was celebrated with a spring ritual in order to prepare ourselves for the new season.

With several residents and representatives of grassroots organizations based in Spangen, we collected plants in the neighborhood that are known for their cleansing properties. Tansy, nettles, ragweed, yarrow and dandelions were washed, cut and then made into spring pancakes (kruidkoeken). Traditionally, these herbal pancakes were eaten on the first day of spring for a mental and physical detox; or a fresh start for the new season. Additionally, during the Grassroots Tasting, various cultivated plant species from the grass family were prepared; from blue corn tortillas, crabgrass muffins and hay kefir to buckwheat blinis. In addition, stories about grasses and birds previously collected in Spangen became part of the table setting as a growing Grassroots card set.

Visual report Grassroots expedition 2 December

On Thursday, December 2, artist collective the Onkruidenier organized the very first activity as part of the Grassroots project. During a walking expedition through Spangen, we shared stories about grasses that can be found between the paving stones or in the roadside such as blood millet, sea rush and love grass. We also learned to look at Spangen from a bird’s eye view. Various grasses spotted in Spangen are collected in the mobile archive of de Onkruidenier.

At the beginning of the Grassroots expedition, we get to know each other in the Justus van Effen complex and explain how Grassroots came to be. The participants were invited because they all make an active contribution to the liveability of Spangen, and know all about the networks that are rooted there. This introduction is a first exploration of what a more active connection between A Tale of A Tub and the neighborhood might look like for the future.

In one of the planters on the second floor of the Justus van Effen complex, we come across street grass. Streetgrass does not grow taller than 25 cm and blooms throughout the year. After flowering, the seed appears, which like most grasses is a grain fruit. Strawgrass forms seeds very quickly, which the birds and wind send into different places. During the colder times of the year, street grass is an important food for all kinds of animals in the city.

During the walk, an exchange developed with the participants in knowledge and experience of what is going on in the neighborhood, with themes such as migration of birds, plants and people, the renovation of residential blocks in Spangen and water management in the neighborhood. We also learned to look at Spangen from a bird’s perspective. Birds experience the urban environment; such as the Marconitorens as a rocky landscape where the peregrine falcon, for example, likes to nest. Hobby ornithologist Astrid tells us where to find the birds in the Justus and how we can take more care of them. On the Bellamyplein we encounter a grass species that is mainly found in the city; the creeper, a real urbanophile. On the artificial turf, Daan and Henrike, two residents of the square, talk about residents’ initiatives the Speelkeet, the garden of Mrs. Ata and the schoonmaakbende, which arose during the transformation and renovation of the houses in this part of Spangen.

Since September, de Onkruidenier has been collecting stories from people, birds and grasses in Spangen in collaboration with community connector Lenn Cox. Lenn uses her clothes as a log, to be able to carry the exchanges, contacts and stories she collects with her as a conversation piece.

Project ‘Grassroots’ starting in Rotterdam

Grassroots is a search for locally rooted initiatives. 

How can Grassroots connect to themes that live in the neighborhood, with both the people and birds and grasses that are rooted there? 

Since September, the Onkruidenier has been collecting stories from people, birds and grasses in Spangen, in collaboration with community connector Lenn Cox. Grasses are found at many levels in our environment and have been cultivated by humans for thousands of years and used for various purposes. For example, corn, wheat and rice are also examples of crops that are included in the grass family. A vast family that migrated to different areas with the help of both humans and birds. From the grass fields in the Justus van Effen complex, the Onkruidenier investigates in what way we can build a renewed relationship with our living environment. Can curiosity lead to collectivity? What connections can be made with what lives in this community from both a human and a bird’s eye view?

Grassroots is a project by artist collective the Onkruidenier in collaboration with A Tale of A Tub, which is located in the Justus van Effen complex in Spangen, Rotterdam. Grassroots is made possible by the VriendenLoterij Fonds.