HOLY GROUND, a commission by A+C 2020

"Pilgrimage redraws topography as a sacred field , rendering the whole landscape as a sacred field of power" Alison Millbank

"To romanticise the world is to make us aware of the magic mystery and wonder of the world; it is to educate the senses to see the ordinary as extraordinary, the familiar as strange, the mundane as sacred, the finite as infinite" - Novalis

 

Holy Ground is a project commissioned by Art + Christianity working in collaboration with the communities in an around St Andrew’s Church and Shri Nathji Sanatan - Hindu Temple in Leytonstone over 3 seasons during 2020.  The project explored ideas of Holy Ground in the broadest sense, seeking to connect with spiritual and embodied ideas of landscape and the universe. Working with a group of elders from both communities we looked more deeply at ways to connect to the natural world and the notion that all land was once considered sacred. 

 

We delivered a series of listening sessions exploring ideas around pilgrimage, offerings and community creating collective actions and practices of attunement as embodied notions of spirituality in and around Epping Forest.

The calling was to use the project as a route in, to consider the return to the natural world as something of the sacred.  Many of the people we worked with have been living in Waltham Forest, London for over 40 years coming from a range of countries including Ireland, Mali, Kenya, Vietnam, South Africa, India, Mozambique and other parts of the UK. Others have been in the area for over three generations and together the group represented a wonderful melting pot of local histories, faiths and the notion that everyday life is pilgrimage.Something of the essence of what London, at its best, offers: a refuge for cross-cultural connection.We were interested in listening to stories from the elders of both communities and to use what was shared to write a collective story.

 

What emerged from this was the story of the ‘Ground Mother’ a symbolic character, covered in cloths of all kinds and colours, who invites people to walk in her footsteps in order to offer a deeper connection to nature and in so doing create a new scripture of the earth.

The story of the ‘Ground Mother’ forming this new experiential scripture through a constellation of rituals was then enacted for film, among the trees and waters, and the piece of ancient woodland that connects the church to the temple. Each member of the community offered a series of part-improvised, part-choreographed gestures to bring the story to life.

 

 

Final outcomes of this work have come together as an exhibition and collection of works in sculpture sound and film to Call to Holy Ground. 

We worked with photographer Nikki McClarron and Ale Tarraf during a series of performances with participants for camera.

The work has included a  call out for fellow pilgrims 

Wherein we collected a series of stories around pilgrimage

With support from the Arts Council of England, the Prince of Wales Charitable Foundation, The Lady Peel Trust and The Morel Trust.

As he looked on to the world he had birthed

he thought to himself 

this place needs music 

this place needs art 

and so 

at the place where the 3 rivers meet

with a swan at her feet

she was birthed

through a fountain of marigold flowers

she came wearing white

as a purification 

she came wearing yellow

as a bringer of light 

she became the river of knowledge

offering her flow beneath the surface of things

to emerge every 12 years 

yet again to meet with the two other rivers 

and 120 million beings 

at the great wheel and water vessel 

immense and intimate 

the turning of the great oceans

in the union of earth and sky 

a collective reflection from Temple session