Dust unto Dust

A site specific installation
St Pauls churchyard, Bristol.

This work explores interdependence, impermanece and our relationship to our natural environment. I wanted to transform a space in this disused and largely abandoned graveyard, with an installation that would surprise and provoke a response.

It’s smallness and simplicity enhanced the message. The fact that it was ‘alive’ amongst the derelict, fogotten gravestones gave it poignancy. The frames enclosed pictures of endangered animals and plants.

People were invited to interact with the work by writing their memories and reflections on floral gift tags, reminiscent of public floral tributes. People added their messages and spent time reading others…they co-created the work and added a ritual element.

Words on the ‘Headstone’:
All things are connected
Our dead never forget this beautiful earth.
We are part of the earth and it is part of us.
You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of your ancestors. So they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin.
Teach your children that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves.
All things are connected like the blood which unites one family.
To harm the earth is to heap contempt on its Creator. Contaminate your bed, and you will one night suffocate in your own waste.
All things are connected.

Chief Seattle, 1854
A brief edited extract from his response to the offer made by ‘Great White Chief’ in Washington to buy their land.

“We actually saw it as soon as we entered the church compound but thought it was a fresh grave and were quite taken aback, in fact I commented on the size ie how sad, poor child recently died … my friend’s reaction was that she ought not to look at it too closely as it seemed disrespectful… then we twigged!

I haven’t been moved in a while so thank you”

Reethah Desai
Museum Learning Officer
Bristol’s Museums and Art Gallery