© Selma Gurbuz

Sending Roots: Witloof in Transit

Contributors: Pia Jacques de Dixmude,  Nook Onchanicha

How to send chicory to Nook in Thailand?

This trajectory takes roots within the shared space of a chicory farm in Kampenhout, a vegetable closely connected with this region and that was once the main source of income for the still rural villages around Brussels. Today this agricultural practice has lost a lot of its traditions, but het witloofkot, the place where the crops are cleaned, keeps bringing women together to work and - consequently - talk. The table has become a conveyor belt, the women have become older, and Thai women, newcomers in Belgium, have joined them.

The rhythm of the repetitive labour and the restrained location (in time and space) leads conversations in het witloofkot to be brief, half understandable and mainly anecdotal but at the same time, at least for an intruder, touching. The conversations are embedded within the product that we share and work on for the preparation of its commodification through (inter)national export.

My project is based on the departure of my colleague Nook Onchanicha from the farm. Upon her departure back home, the sister of the farmer gave her a bag of chicory in order to show this “typical Belgian vegetable” to her family in Thailand. Unfortunately she had to refuse due to the quarantaine she had to do when arriving at the airport in Thailand, due to the corona crisis.

My project attempts to nevertheless send chicory to Nook’s home in Thailand. Chicory leaves grow in darkness from the roots of the previous year, so the vegetable will continue its growth during the transport, and hopefully arrive at a matured state at Nook.

My aspirations had to deal with the pragmatic aspect of sending a liveable good across international borders legally. In order to realise this, I needed the help of various contributors. The Embassy of Thailand indicated the procedure to follow, and Asan Suwanarit, landscape architect and teacher at Thamassat University, supported the research from Thailand.

During the Seasonal Neighbours group exhibition in Z33, the visitor already got a glimpse into the box in which the chicory grows and that will be sent to Thailand. Next to it was a folder containing all the e-mail traffic with embassies, customs services and experts. The personal and the bureaucratic, the local and the global, came together there in one object. 

Biografie Pia Jacques de Dixmude

More on this research: https://www.piajacques.be/flux.html

Website updated in May 2024