Identifies as: Italo-Australian
Language: English- Piedmontese- Italian
I would like to acknowledge Wayward Films for their work on the shorts http://waywardfilms.com.au/
I acknowledge the original custodians of the land where I live and work, and pay my respect to elders past, present and future. May your wisdom thrive and guide us.
My contribution to 52 ACTIONS is a seven-part narrative looking at seven wild plants found in the Sydney Basin. Each species will present a topic, starting with an Acknowledgment of Country and finishing with a call to care for resources.
My work examines alternative forms of food consumption and wild food gathering as a way for people to cultivate relationships with their own neighbourhood and to find value, knowledge and empathy in their surroundings.
I use wild weeds as a sustainable source and point of reflection. I tease out migrant knowledge related to the plants and with that connect global stories with the naturalised species around us.
Through storytelling and story-sharing I offer possibilities for an immediate and intimate relationship with your locale, built around a joyful, participatory, and mutually beneficial engagement with public resources.
My contribution will take you on a journey of discovery, tapping into ancestral stories and relationships with ecologies, to rediscover a connected life between us -urban animals- and the species living around us.
I acknowledge Indigenous Australians’ connection to land and their sovereignty. I pay respect to the land on which I live and work. Let's learn from the past to care for the future and work together to look after the land we live on.
Diego Bonetto is an artist, forager, keen naturalist and award-winning cultural worker based in Sydney. His work enables convivial conversations around belonging, sustainability and agency. Bonetto’s work offers an alternative for people to re-engage with their neighbourhoods, streets and footpaths through edible adventures.
Bonetto regularly offers workshops, foraging tours and events that reframe environmental identity and stewardship. He collaborates extensively with chefs, dancers, media art practitioners, journalists, academics, craft workers, herbalists, brewers, educators, environmentalists and landowners.
Through environmental art campaigns such as WeedyConnection and Wild Stories, he has shared insights into edible and medicinal wild plants in Australia and fostered culturally aware interpretations of landscape. Exhibitions and commissions have included Wildfood Store (a platform that offers foraging services and support for farmers, market gardeners and chefs). Foodfight (a C3West commission, Sydney, 2016); The Rocks Windmill, (Sydney, 2013); Wild Stories (Casula Powerhouse Art Centre, 2012); and State of the Arts (Group exhibition, Italian Pavilion, Venice Biennale, 2011). Bonetto is also a founding member of Big Fag Press, Sydney, and Kandos School of Cultural Adaptation, a group of artists and writers who perform adaptive cultural change by instigating events and projects in collaboration with traditional custodians, farmers, scientists and communities.
We live in a country with the oldest continuous knowledge and culture in the world. Two centuries of migrants have also brought knowledge to this land from across the globe. I believe that we should all find ways to pay respect to these important stories, from both Indigenous and migrant communities, to best care for our resources and learn to appreciate ecological cycles and dynamics. As a foreigner, as a native speaker of a dying language (Piedmontese), and as an artist working with the land, I pay respect to Aboriginal culture, language, stories and the custodians of these stories, bringing them to us today and to generations into the future.
This is a wattle, acacia species. This plant is celebrated as food, medicine and in ceremony. This celebration, built through stories, is precious.
For 52 ACTIONS I am presenting a series of plants living in Australia, using stories from all over the world that enable anyone to cultivate empathy and care for them.
Let’s look after the stories, as they are all we have and all that will live beyond us.
Stories are amazing tools; they can be sharp and blunt at the same time. They are the kind of tools that allow us to relate, to place ourselves in an environment and give us clues on how to move. Stories allow us to find belonging.
This is a dandelion. This plant is one of the first plants I learned about as a kid growing up on a dairy farm in Northern Italy. This plant is naturalised in Australia and everywhere else in the world.
This plant is known as dandelion from the French, dant-de-lion, meaning lion’s tooth, as the leaves look like fangs of a lion. This plant is also known as wet-the-bed, as is a renowned diuretic, meaning if you eat this you may wet your pants.
Oops, shouldn’t have told that story…
Genetic memory is a thing and is an untapped resource. Dig down within yourself to find knowledge that you didn’t know you had.
This is dock, and whenever I present this plant in my workshops there is always some knowledge about it in the group - usually related to the old saying that if you ever get stung by nettle, look around as a dock leaf will not be far, and it will mend the rash.
These old stories are way more important than simple survival trivia; they are the leftovers of communion, when we were living in and with nature.
I remember this plant because when we were kids and working in the fields, my mum would give us this plant whenever we were complaining that we were bored or hungry. “Mum, I’m hungry”. My mum would pick this up and go: “Eat this, shut up”. We call it lavasoj in my language.
You will never be able to know all of the plants. The best you can do is to learn what is around you. Start small, one species at a time, get to know it, rejoice in the wonderful cycles of nature and get to know them.
Use stories to help you remember and to help you connect with your surroundings.
This is chickweed, a common wild food and medicine naturalised all over the world, including Australia. I will tell you a story that will hopefully lock this one into your memory bank.
If you look closely while turning the stalks around in your fingers, you will see a little line of hair, on one side only of the stalk, like a crest. See? Chickweed has a chicken crest. Then, if you gently break the stalk you will see a string inside, like a bone.
Chickweed has a chicken crest and a chicken bone.
We are the result of luck. Each one of us is a-chance-in-a-million. Gratitude is so important, as with gratitude everything becomes a gift, a treasure.
Let me tell you about plantain. Do you know this one? This is an ancient co-evolutionary species. We are connected to this plant since before memory. This is a food plant and superior medicine.
Let me tell you a story, a simple and fun story that we can all relate to, at kid level. Look at the flowering stalk of plantain. This plant is used all over the world as a game: you pick it up, turn it on itself and then you pull and go: Pew pew!
See? Fun. This plant lives along the road on the way to school all over the world. And all over the world it is regarded as a gift from nature.
By the way, ‘pew pew’ is international language, we all say it the same.
Learning stories is great, learning local stories is best. Let me tell you one as an example.
This is fennel, wild fennel. This plant is a celebrated food and medicine of the Eurasian continent, much loved by Indian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cultures.
Once I was told a story from a Lebanese lady. She told me that the seed of this plant are also known as the meeting seeds, and when the elders of a village send the kids off to collect wild fennel seeds, it is because they mean business.
The reason for that is because wild fennel is renowned for calming the digestive system, so when the elders gather to discuss the important issues of the village, they eat wild fennel seeds, to refresh their mouth as they speak, and settle down their stomach until any matters are settled.
Stories allow you to connect and discover value around you. Once you can see value around, you become a stakeholder. And from there it’s a very short step to caretaker.
This is mugwort; it is bitter and used extensively in vermouth and bitter drinks. This plant is not native to Australia, but it is found occasionally in our cities and suburbs.
I know this plant colony and I am very fond of it. If you would like to find colonies and learn more about your surroundings, I always suggest you join your local bush regeneration group - they are all over Australia. These groups of locals spend their free time looking after the environment, pulling out infestations to allow for more biodiversity.
They are able to tell you where the clean colonies are and offer you tea and biscuits in exchange for looking after the land.
Look after your surroundings, become a caretaker and seek out stories to connect to your local area.