Photograph from the archive of the Ethnographic Museum, Messejana.
The Ethnographic Museum of Messejana is situated in the village of Messejana in the region of Alentejo (Portugal). Through the last century, corporate farming of eucalyptus has slowly replaced more traditional and local land use around the village, which is contributing to a gradual disengagement from the local people to their land and their heritage.
Harvesting Stories is a journey into the local land use of Messejana and Alentejo, and the collective memory of its past, through the Ethnographic Museum of Messejana's collection.
The museum's collection comprises various agricultural tools and residues of a former life. The aim of the project was to explore and weave together the bonds between the local community and the museum, their heritage, and their land.
Conversations with local people about the museum's collection were filmed, focusing in particular on objects related to land use. In interviewing locals about objects from the collection that their ancestors used, or that they used themselves when younger, memories of their former connection with the land were revived, and stories were shared.
In an effort to investigate the current land use around Messejana, field research was conducted in the local dwindling native oak trees and the expanding imported eucalyptus cultures, such as video footage, sound recordings, and experiments involving leaving paper sheets imbued with substances like sugar water to document local wildlife interaction. These all contributed to the conversation around the surrounding lands and the village's connection with other forms of life, from reed weaving to the harvest season, from human/cricket interactions to biodiversity richness in different tree habitats.
The residency was hosted at the Messejana Ethnographic Museum in 2018, mediated by Buinho. The artwork produced during this residency is now the property of the museum.