In a welcome departure from a traditional lecture format, Ashara Ekundayo gave an eclectic, multi-media presentation entitled “Artivism and Eco-cultivation.” Ekundayo explained these somewhat unfamiliar concepts in an engaging and informative way.
She began by discussing artivism, which is a combination the arts and activism. Ekundayo explained that artivists are people who use art and culture to address problems in society. The philosophy of artivists generally is, “The culture is the cure,” which is the idea that culture can fix the world’s problems.
Ekundayo then spent time defining what an eco-cultivator is by offering five main characteristics. First, eco-cultivators have reverence for ancestors – they respect those who came before. Second, they practice innovation and improvisation – they go with the flow. Third, eco-cultivators practice collaboration, which, to Ekundayo, “Doesn’t mean I have to agree with them… I just have to share ideas with them.” Fourth, eco-cultivators have bravery. “If they’re scared, that often means someone needs to hold their hand,” she said, explaining that the more success a person achieves, the less scared of failure they are. Fifth, and finally, eco-cultivators are artivists.
Ekundayo also discussed the importance of reconnecting with the earth. She described the modern disconnect from the environment as a disease, related to both physical (e.g., diabetes) and social (e.g., consumerism) diseases. The solution is to reconnect to the earth and “get dirty.” In a racial sense, she explained, “Black people’s connection to the land… is not always the fruit.” As black people often tended the land, Ekundayo argues that they have a less relaxed relationship with the land, but a more respectful one. She later added that, for the black community especially, “Recycle, Reduce, Reuse is all about remember.” Humans, even Americans, have a tradition of an appropriate relationship to resources. According to Ekundayo, they must simply remember it.
Another important aspect of her presentation was a discussion of food. She encourages people to grow and eat local, healthy foods. She argued that not only are these foods better for the body and the environment, they are also better for the community.
Collard greens offer a window into the past culture not available from potato chips. Also, local production enables the provision of jobs as well as an understanding of where food comes from often lacking in poor communities.
Ekundayo’s use of a variety of mediums of presentation, ranging from YouTube videos to PowerPoint presentations, made her talk engaging for the small audience. Her message of using culture to cure societal ills, building community around food, and supporting the environment with timeless wisdom was profound in its simplicity and a perfect fit for DeltaDays.