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Postcards from the Garden of the Moorish King

Events > Exhibitions

Emma Pratt
at Whitespace
20 May 2014 - 7 Jun 2014

Added by Dib

"The wilderness, so named by us, needs a visitor, a memory, because, like any monument (and it is), it cannot remember itself. So that's me, I am providing the memory, returning as I constantly do in my art making to frame landscapes of the wilderness/garden of my infancy, the Eden from which we were cast."

Pratt, E. L. "Food Wood Water Rock." Art All Magazine. Nov. 2010


"There is a term to describe humans and their specialty for play, coined by Johan Huizinga - "Homo ludens". He describes places of play as "temporary worlds within the ordinary world, dedicated to the performance of an act apart".

Anne Whiston Spirn, "The Language of Landscape" 1998, Yale University Press.


I remember how I played. I had the luxury, as I see it now, of open spaces, wild wildernesses at the backs of gardens, running into the bush, streams to follow and vacant lots. I created houses with fallen leaves and whole alternate worlds in a neighbourhood. I got to explore the ramshackle spaces behind the work sheds on farms and made clandestine excursions to explore abandoned houses.

Here in Seville I visit regularly with my girls a neighbourhood initiative known as "El Huerto del Rey Moro" The Garden of the Moorish King. It formed part of the land of an historic home dating from the Muslim period of Seville's history and was used for horticulture. Archeological remains show that the few buildings there were for hydraulic purposes.

In 2004 this space was occupied by frustrated neighbours who were tired of waiting for the local government to turn over the covenanted land to the people. It had for a long time been walled up and inaccessible and developers wanted to get their hands on it.

In the hands of the locals, "El Huerto" became a public recreational space. It boasts a collection of donated tricycles for kids to play on, a sandpit, an old Wendy House, now forming part of a mud sculpture and a swing tied to the old fig tree. Neighbours have raised beds of vegetables and herbs, some organised, some half left to go wild. To get a plot you need to contact the association, spend time gardening in the community plot to earn your stripes and then you are allotted space for yourself. There is a garden shed where people leave books for exchange, picnic tables under the trees, a water pump and a home-made bread oven where they make bread every Monday.

When I discovered this space, I felt flooded with joy at the familiarity of it. My present work references my ordinary life. My life of taking the children to this garden, overgrown and full of history. A regular visit to the familiar is a precious constant for the outsider in a foreign space.

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