By Claire Rousell
Preparing for the National Seed Dialogue and Celebration, hosted by the African Centre for Biodiversity, smallholder farmers, activists and government officials are crowded into the atrium of the Women’s Jail at Constitution Hill and a drum is beating. A performer, Simo Mpapa Majola, dressed in blankets, is praying and singing and imploring the audience. He is telling the story of the women who work on a farm, who have been marginalised over and over, and yet are relentless in their search for “She-sus”, the She-God, and unswerving in their connection to the soil.
Around the edges of the atrium are tables adorned with bowls and jars, hand-crafted wooden trays and woven baskets of seeds, resplendent in their diversity of colours, shapes and textures. Farmers and activists have brought the seeds from across the country to show the art of the soil – its wild excess that is still available to us – despite its depletion due to the demands of global capitalist supply chains that have destroyed agricultural biodiversity. The displays of seeds are arranged on beautiful shweshwe table cloths, interspersed with traditional tools for the preparation and serving of food: a woven beer filter,