Decolonial Gardening: Libby Harward’s Ngali Ngariba at Gropius Bau

Inside and outside

A terrarium is a world under a dome. Planted in a small scoop of aerated, moss-covered soil, terraria inhabitants live their lives in a self-sustaining bubble. The glass architecture enables a balanced microenvironment, regulating the conditions essential to vegetal needs, while offering protection from the many elemental, animal and human forces that can take a tender plant’s life. The terrarium, however, takes something from the plant: its freedom, since growth is forever dictated by the limits of its walls. The shield, in other words, is also a prison.

A garden differs from a terrarium in its porosity, vulnerability and need for human attention. Mulching, weeding, feeding, watering, pruning and raking—practices that make the noun into a verb—are needed to maintain the garden’s distinction from wilderness. But the garden does share some features with the terrarium; as planted worlds, galleries of the chosen, they are defined by who is let in and who is kept out.



Title image:

Libby Harward
Ngali Ngariba – We Talk, 2019
Photograph: Mathias Voelzke. Courtesy of the artist

Danni Zuvela’s research-based practice encompasses writing, curating, installation and sound, and focuses on non-human subjectivity. Extending from Why Listen to Plants (2018), Zuvela’s most recent work, ORCHID HOUSE, explores the feelings of endangered swamp orchids in the former chain of lagoons now called the Gold Coast.