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The Forest Does Not Own Me Anymore, Forager Collective, Cooking Sections

8 September – 17 October 2019

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Lantana camara has been depicted as one of the greatest threats to wildlife and farming across India. Brought from America to Europe by the Dutch, and then transferred to Calcutta by the East India Company in 1807, the plant served as an ornamental hedge and butterfly-attractor until it became a menace to the Empire’s own plantations. Today, it occupies more than 13 million hectares in India alone. The equivalent of millions of pounds have been spent unsuccessfully to eradicate the plant, but the methods for doing so are expensive and inefficient.

The Soligas are an indigenous people living in the Malé Mahadeshwara Reserve Forest (MM Hills) of Karnataka. Dependent on foraged forest produce, subsistence and bamboo crafts, they have been severely marginalised by the 1980 Forest Conservation Act. This legislation inherited approaches from Empire forestry to further exploit the forest as a resource and prevent indigenous peoples from living off the landscape they had inhabited for centuries. As an alternative strategy, some of these tribal communities resorted to produce Lantana furniture—one of the few ‘invasive’ materials they are allowed to source—while using traditional bamboo craft techniques.

The Forest Does Not Employ Me Any More is a series of lantana stools made by the Soligas, available on sale at The Empire Remains Shop at production price. The aim of the project is to publicise the socio-ecological struggle and persuade people and institutions to purchase the new lantana stools directly from the Soligas. Against the conventional logic of market growth, the ultimate aim of a lantana business would be to exhaust all 13 million hectares of lantana across India. In other words, to run out of raw material and go bust. The best lantana business would sell enough lantana stools to bankrupt itself.