Placed in the heart of the exhibition space, the seeds with their individual names form a protected fluid core representing the wisdom and expertise of local food sovereignty. Found at “the scene of crime” and under threat of permanent disappearance, the seeds are the vocabulary of an extensive knowledge system that has been shared, experimented with, and developed over decades.
When Natabar Sarangi, a former schoolteacher recently turned rice farmer and seed activist, started cultivating rice a decade ago, he found only a handful of different seeds still in use in Odisha. He remembered all the various species of rice from his childhood, along with their shapes, tastes, and natural qualities. To preserve this rich heritage and to bring it back into the natural cycles of cultivation, he set out to collect, grow, harvest, disseminate, and archive the seeds. In The Sovereign Forest, 272 individual species of rice are represented, with each type of seed displayed in a handmade container, labeled, and archived with great care.
Accompanying the seeds are six small books that compile texts and photographic evidence. They recount the manifold levels of resistance, not only against political and corporate violations but also against the loss of memory of the dead and disappeared and of the passage of time in the struggle to preserve, resist, and survive.