Jagath Dheerasekara - Open Pollination

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Jagath Dheerasekara is an Amnesty International Human Rights Innovation Fund Grant recipient for his ‘Manuwangku, Under the Nuclear Cloud’ project.

In the mid-90s, upon returning home to Sri Lanka from France where he spent his years in exile, Jagath began a career in telecommunications and his second spell of photography.

As time went by, both his personal and commissioned photography took an increasingly larger role. Jagath settled in Australia with his family in 2008. He lives and works in Sydney South West.

Jagath’s work is a crossover between human rights, oral history and photography. He has presented his work in a number of solo exhibitions, selected group exhibitions and festivals. His work is held in both institutional and private collections. Jagath's recent work has increasingly involved oral history. He is a passionate facilitator for community cultural development participatory art projects.

Slideshow caption: Jagath Dheerasekara, Self-poster # 1 ~ 6 Series, From Open Pollination , 2015 Pigment ink on poster paper or Projection. Photography and software aided graphics. Commissioned by the Penrith City Council for Sharing the Seeds project

Open Pollination, 2015

Open Pollination Series, performance, video work, photography, computer generated graphics.

Mono culture based industrialised agriculture contributes to 40 percent of greenhouse gases. 80 percent of food production in the world comes from family owned and small farms. In the US, more than 90 percent of agriculture subsidies go to farmers of five crops — wheat, corn, soybeans, rice, and cotton. In 2012, agricultural subsidies totalled an estimated USD 486 billion in the top 21 food-producing countries of the world. These subsidies push prices artificially down, making agriculture in general enviable.

Mamre House is a place where one makes peace with the earth.  It is an organic farm. ‘Open Pollination’ primarily involved three people - two farmers, Simeon and Nevin, and I. Simeon, originally from Burma, settled in Australia fifteen years ago. Nevin has been living in St Clair, not far from Mamre, for several decades.

Agri giants are dis-empowering farmers around the world. Under the pretext of safeguarding patent/ intellectual property rights, seed saving has been criminalized in some countries in favour of agri giants. In 2013 the appeal court made a landmark decision, preventing Monsanto, a global agri giant from patenting seeds. Coincidental, in 2013, Mamre House established a community seed bank in St Marys, on the outskirts of Sydney. Its objective was to collect, preserve and distribute heritage seeds.

I began a conversation with Simeon and Nevin regarding their practice and experience in farming, consuming, storing, recipes, cooking, saving/sharing/preserving of seeds etc. I based my conversations on the exchange of my labour for some produce in return, by working in each of the gardeners' garden patch for a few hours. In terms of knowledge of the topic at large, ‘Open pollination’ revealed nothing new. But it allowed me to engage myself and immersed in the world of sustainable food production and consumption. Indian farmers fought back as a mass movement against the attempts to patenting seeds and subsequent restrictions on saving seeds. Navdanya is a grass-root mass movement which is leading the way to achieving seed sovereignty in order to achieve food sovereignty. It has established 111 Community Seed Banks in 17 States across India. Navdanya has trained about 500,000 farmers and conserved 3,000 varieties of rice. Through its efforts, 200,000 farmers have been converted to organic farming in various parts of the country.

Back to QSRT 2015 - Sharing the Seeds Project