This week, we have invited one of the anthropology students who have created the special exhibition ‘In motion: A different take on nomads’ to write a blog about the exhibition. Last week, you could read about fieldwork. This week, Simone Hasse Stavnsbo writes about fieldwork and about her group’s exhibition ‘Seasonal Nomads: the Danish summer home’.
Tucked behind a central highway in Aarhus, on a former landfill, lies Åbrinken – a Danish allotment garden society. The plot of land is divided neatly into rectangles when seen from above, but on the ground, the towering hedges form labyrinthine corridors. This is where a group of my fellow students and I started an intense fieldwork for this year’s student exhibition at Moesgaard Museum.
Rooted in the workers movement, allotment gardens were meant to offer working city dwellers access to land to grow fresh produce. However, allotment gardens soon evolved to become summer residences for the working class. The heritage of allotment gardens in general, and Åbrinken in particular, is still of great importance to the more seasoned residents. The major concern among these residents at the time of our fieldwork was the erosion of traditions and values native to this heritage.
Consider the simple garden gate. On the surface it seems so simple – a gate to allow access to an otherwise enclosed garden – and yet in the allotment garden this is not the case. Garden gates are at the centre of the two perhaps largest disputes between the old and new generation of allotment garden residents. Firstly, the garden gate itself is an essential part of the traditional communitas of allotment gardens. An open garden gate signals that the resident is free for visits, for example from people doing the customary evening patrol. This practice of casual visits and evening patrols is not popular among younger residents. The new generation of allotment garden residents have other values associated with allotment gardens; closeness to nature, seasonal variations, and a less materialistic lifestyle. The old generation also values these things, but place more emphasis on strong communal bonds.
Another example of this is the heated discussion of hedge and gate heights. Traditionally, allotment gardens have very low hedges, supposedly to encourage communication and social intercourse across the hedge. Many, particularly new residents, want higher hedges and more privacy.
When designing our exhibition, we of course had to include a garden gate. Not only did the garden gate physically allow us access to the allotment gardens, it also gave a unique approach to understanding the concerns and conflicts of our field.
Visit our exhibition to discover more about garden gates, Danish allotment garden societies and how they relate to contemporary nomadism.
//Simone Hasse Stavnsbo
The exhibition ‘In motion: A different take on nomads’ ends on September 2. So hurry up and make your way to Moesgaard!