Seeds of Our Ancestors: stories of millet from Japan, Himalaya, and Zimbabwe

Solo exhibition

Seeds of Our Ancestors: stories of millet from Japan, Himalaya, and Zimbabwe
DATE : March 1 – April 22
LOCATION : Lobby Gallery, Liu Institute for Global Issues,The University of British Columbia, Vancouver (Canada)

Artist statement

Around the world, people have passed down ancestral seeds and farming practices from generation to generation.
Farming of millet is one such ancestral knowledge, passed through generations. Millet has been an important staple food for many communities especially in Asia and Africa, cultivated for thousands of years and deeply embedded into culture and place. Millet consists of several small-grained cereal species, such as foxtail millet or finger millet. Millet is known for its high nutritional value, and they have a high degree of tolerance to difficult environmental conditions, such as drought, cold, salinity, and low-fertility soils, as well as having the ability to be stored for decades. However, millet cultivation is declining globally, and there is an urgent need to revitalize it and preserve ancient seeds.

2023 is the UN Year of Millets, highlighting the important role of millet as a food crop for climate-resilient farming and its high nutritional value to communities around the world. Using an arts-based and community-engaged approach, Saori’s doctoral research explores the meaning of millet cultivation for cultivators and community members in Japan. During the pandemic, Saori initiated a collaborative research project, bringing together her Indigenous community
partners in Zimbabwe and Himalaya, using social networking applications. As a result, the project turned into a collective analysis of the shared meaning of ancient millet cultivation across borders, which will be published as a chapter in a forthcoming book.

Millet cultivation forms a way of life–through this laborious process, people find the joy of cultivating grains, and
strengthening community ties by collaborating for planting, harvesting, and threshing together. Millet therefore has high potential to contribute to wellbeing, as well as respond to the climate emergency.

Artist Profile

Saori Ogura is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of
Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at The
University of British Columbia, Vancouver. Collaborating with Indigenous and local communities in the Eastern Himalaya, Zimbabwe, and Japan, her passion is to revitalize nutritious and climate-resilient small grains, which contributes to the wellbeing of the people and the land, food security and
improving community resilience. As an artist, she uses
different mediums such as photography, drawing, and
documentary film for her research. She is a Public Scholar and a Student Fellow for Climate & Nature Emergency. She was the recipient of the 2017 Nikon Salon Miki Jun Inspiration Award for her photojournalism project documenting her time living in Sikkim and Darjeeling in India’s Eastern Himalaya.