Mutter Erde – Pachamama – Mother Earth

by LIS School Garden Coordinator Gitte

Everything in our garden has a story. And so has the painting of Pachamama. Where to start?
In 2019 Franka asked me if I had any use for a huge wooden board which she wanted to get rid of. Of course, I happily said yes. The board which was 2,80×2,00m was carried in the garden by Franka’s dad and a friend one afternoon. In return I gave them a bowl of homegrown strawberries. There it was. A huge wooden board being carried from one corner of the garden to another. Never the right spot. And no idea came to my mind what to do with it. It got old, it broke… it did not look very happy. And I was neither.
A few months ago in march 2022 we celebrated Luisa’s birthday in the garden within our lovely school garden community. We had cake and coffee, sang songs with Amy on the guitar and finally in that peaceful atmosphere the idea what to do with that huge wooden board popped into my mind. I said to the girls how great it would be to paint Mother Earth (Pachamama) on it… and prompt Amy said she would love to do it.

Why Pachamama you ask?
In September 2020 Gabriela, who is originally from Argentina, had the idea to celebrate Pachamama in the school garden with us on a Tuesday morning. We created a wonderful mandala out of the natural gifts which you find in the garden, we shared our thoughts and had a wonderful philosophical reflection about mother earth. Thank you again, Gabriela, for this initiative!
Since then I often thought about Pachamama and many pictures came to my mind what she could look like. That’s why I was really happy when Amy said she would be thankful to take over this quite big project. It means a lot. She created a memory for Gabriela who is leaving this summer to Spain, she is leaving us a memory of herself since she is also leaving back to Utah in July, finally she is closing a circle and giving this huge wooden board a meaning, and most of all she is creating a new space in the garden which gives our community the possibility to take a breath, to reflect, to get
inspired for meaningful conversations about Pachamama, the mother earth, the source and our relationship to her.
After finishing the painting, I sat down with Amy and asked her some question since I was curious how she felt during the whole creative process:
Amy before we start, I would like to say THANK YOU! It means a lot to us and we know how much heart you put into this work. We will take good care of it!!! We will turn it into a space of mindfulness.

Amy, please tell us a little bit about you and why you came to Leipzig?
My husband Adrian is an anthropologist working as a professor at the University of Utah. We are here while he is on sabbatical at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. Our three kids, Eli, Azilee and Una are attending LIS this school year. I am a science teacher, on leave for the year, exploring the beautiful city of Leipzig!

Why were you motivated to take over the project?
I am technically on a sabbatical too, so my time is my own to fill, which is such a unique situation to be in. I have really dived into my art while here in Leipzig and tried many new things. This project was an opportunity for me to create something lasting. The motivation being for other’s entertainment and pleasure instead of just my own, made it it extra wonderful to work on. I am always drawing, painting or creating something, simply for the enjoyment of doing so, but creating art for others to enjoy is very satisfying!

Did you hear the term Pachamama before?
Yes, I am familiar with Pachamama as one of the names for Mother Earth and I have always admired the art depicting her. I am very much a naturalist at heart and I feel most at home and alive when I am barefoot in the wild. I felt very connected to this project.

How long did it take to finish the painting? How many hours did you spent in the school garden?
I started the painting in May and spent two to three days each week in the garden painting. I think the finished product took about 30 hours to complete!

While sitting in the garden painting what thoughts crossed your mind?
I always feel happiest when I am creating, and when I am in nature. This project was a perfect combining of these two elements for me and made my heart so happy!

How was the working process for you?
I very much enjoyed painting when other people were in the garden, especially when classes of kids came out and the kids shared their thoughts about the painting with me. There are many ideas I included after these cute conversations with the kids! It was also so very peaceful when I was alone painting. I have a specific playlist of music I listen to when I paint, so I typically had an earphone in one ear and the birds singing and the wind rustling the leaves in the other. A very perfect ambience for bringing Pachamama to life!!

Who else was involved in the process?
Well of course you, Gitte, with the original idea and for providing inspiring pictures I took ideas from. And I think everyone who came to the garden added something to it in a way. We talked and I got ideas, added a small detail here or there as they were suggested. It’s for everyone in the garden to enjoy and feel some connection to our Earth in a more spiritual way maybe, so I loved asking everyone what they thought I should add.

Did you learn something?
I definitely learned that I need more of this in my life – creating something while enjoying nature is a phenomenal combination for anyone’s mental health I think. All the cares of the day completely melted away when I was painting and listening to the birds. I also always painted barefoot as well, my feet in the dirt and stepping on the leaves of the vines. It was a nice connection.

How do you feel about the result?
I am most happy when I see people feeling something when they look at it. It represents all of us and our role to protect what we have. I like that what was once a plain board of wood, can now offer inspiration maybe for those who look at Pachamama, to be better stewards in caring for and preserving this beautiful place we live.

What do you imagine how the school would use that space you created? What wish do you have?
I hope it can be a conversation piece to help kids (and all of us!) to think about the Interconnectednes sof all living things on our planet. Sometimes I think humans feel exempt from the cycles of nature, that we are apart, distant or removed in some way. Realizing we aren’t conquerors of nature, but that we are very much included in the cycles at work here, we can see we are part of a very delicate balance. A balance that, when struggling, only we have the power to correct. I hope the Pachamama painting can help facilitate a renewed sense of responsibility to our planet, as people
look at it, I hope they can see a part they can play, and that steps we take to protect and preserve, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, are still steps in the right direction.

Thank you so very much for the opportunity Gitte, this has truly been such a wonderful experience. The space you have cultivated and created in the school garden will never leave me.

The interview with Amy was conducted by our School Garden Coordinator Gitte.

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