This project is motivated by an interest in understanding the movement of people through the dispersal of botanic species across continents. Diasporic journeys can be traced and retraced by the ways in which plants have travelled from Africa to the Americas, as seeds were carried by enslaved Africans to the colonies. In transporting seeds with them, Africans were able to bring local knowledges with them to the colonies, resisting attempts by European slavers to strip the memory of their homelands from them while simultaneously shaping the future agricultural landscape of the Americas. In many cases, those who brought these species with them were women, for example braiding rice into their hair, thus challenging the understanding that European “navigators, colonists, and men of science” were responsible for the transoceanic movement of plants. This project will examine the legacy that these botanic species have imprinted on the Americas through a series of collages and brief texts for a series of these plants, mapping their journeys through words and images. These experiments in drawing and writing will attempt to challenge the dominant modes of representation that are associated with Linnaean taxonomy and nomenclature, another form of colonial exploration that often erased the contributions of African botanists.

Ella den Elzen is an architectural designer and researcher. Working predominantly in modes of architectural representation such as drawing and model making, she explores the role of architecture in relation to justice. Her research examines topics around spaces of incarceration, migration, and settler-colonial infrastructures.