by Henna Asikainen
From our people to our places, our cultures and our landscapes the rich tapestry or our lives is foraged from far and wide.
Just as our communities are formed, through the integration and celebration of people from other places, so too are our landscapes.
The idea for Forage came from Henna’s own experience of arriving in the North East of England from Finland and the rootedness she first began to feel when she had access to the countryside.
Forage is a participatory commission with people who are refugees and seeking asylum now living in Newcastle and Gateshead. It is a series of walks and conversations in landscapes that are both strange and familiar. It provides the opportunity to discover and recover what it means to belong to a place when displaced from home and to experience the most ‘English’ of our landscapes at National Trust sites across Northumberland and Tyne and Wear. Using foraged plants, stories old and new are interwoven into new experiences for participants, and form the basis of a series public artworks and interventions.
So often newly arrived people who have been radically displaced from their home communities find themselves confined to an unknown and sometimes unfriendly cityscape, with no ready means to access the rich natural and cultural environment of the region.
Through a series of curated 'foraging' walks through iconic historic landscapes at the National Trust sites of Seaton Delaval, Cherryburn and Gibside, the project introduces participants to the environment beyond the urban spaces they are made to inhabit, giving them an opportunity to explore and develop a deeper understanding of the natural, social and historical context in which they have found themselves.
From food to friendship, from experiences to things, we all forage to make this place we call home and this life we call ours.
As migrants have arrived on our shores from near and far, so too have our plants. This is particularly evident in the managed landscapes of our country houses laid out during the 18th and 19th centuries; often using exotic plant specimens foraged from the colonies and beyond.
Walking and foraging together has brought us a deeper understanding of the complex, sometimes conflicting, but more often rewarding relationships we hold with the world we inhabit and those we inhabit it with.
Forage emerged from artist Henna Asikainen’s own experience of migration and her exploration of the spectacular landscape and cultural environments that surround the city that she has made her home.
As an artist, Henna's principal interests are the questions surrounding the human relationship with nature and the complex social and ecological issues that emerge from this relationship. Not all human experiences of nature are equivalent or shared and in response her practice tends to be collaborative in nature and emerges from specific sites and communities.
Henna's recent work has been created with communities who have migrated to the UK through a process of engagement facilitated within natural landscapes. As an artist who has migrated herself and has lived in Newcastle for 20 years these projects are grounded in a desire to explore, to engage with, and share the fruits of the great affection that has developed over that time for her new home.
Those who foraged together built new bonds and experiences…
'Me and my children love the walks, and I would like to do more.'
'So wonderful trips! This was my best experience in the last ten years in Newcastle and I would love to see more places.'
'Taking part has made me feel happier and better!'
'One thing that struck me was the noise! Although it was said that it was lovely to be out in the quiet of the countryside, I was happy to hear lots of chatter and laughter. An uplifting experience.'
'Meeting new people. Coming out of my shell. Building strength and confidence. Going somewhere new and just talking and supporting each other.'
Artist: Henna Asikainen
Digital Curator: Dominic Smith
Forage was commissioned and produced by D6: Culture in Transit.
Forage has been kindly supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, Newcastle Culture Investment Fund, The Heritage Lottery Fund, Counterpoints Arts, The National Trust, The Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, Muckles LLP, and New Writing North.
Forage was made possible by the suport of our local partners the Angelou Centre, Crossings Community Group, the English Language Conversation Group, Red Rope Socialist Walking Group, and Samosa Sisters Women's Empowerment.