Using a hedge of the Latin American plant Mirabilis jalapa in the garden of a Xhosa man in the informal settlement of Europe in Gugulethu as an exploratory device, this essay uses Mignolo’s method of ‘epistemic disobedience’ to problematise plant categories like ‘indigenous’ and ‘weeds’. The essay traces the route of the ‘Marvel of Peru’, as it is known through the world, to Cape Town and finds that indigenous people have happily adopted this non-indigenous plant because it performs in multiple ways including ornamentally, medicinally and, as it turns out, as a soil remediation device. In doing so, the fetishisation of indigenous plants is revealed as trope of colonial identity, quite divorced from the pragmatic incorporation of alien species into a continuous land practice by indigenous people for whom culture and nature are not separate questions.
|Number of pages
|Folio: Journal of African Architecture
|Published - 2017