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Kwesia is a young changemaker and the creator of the video series City Girl in Nature - on a mission to engage young people from disadvantaged communities living in inner cities to connect with nature. Growing up in Deptford, South East London, an area where people have often been neglected, excluded, and marginalised, Kwesia experienced family trauma and homelessness when she was 17, while struggling with her mental health and well-being.
After joining a life changing expedition by the British Exploring Society to the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest in 2018, where she spent three weeks in a remote part of the jungle learning to live in the outdoors, Kwesia decided to create City Girl in Nature, as a way to give back to her community. Kwesia is now on a mission to share her love for the outdoors and connect with other young people, who are nature-deprived and excluded from such experiences, and support them on their own pathways to healing and self-discovery.
Describe the nature around you?
I view Nature to be all around us and even within. When answering the questions I was indoors. I have some pine cones, numerous plants around my house, birds that fly past the window and most importantly oxygen allowing me to breathe.
What lessons have you learned from nature?
I have learnt that we ARE nature! We are entangled. And we coexist. We have seasons. We are born. We grow. We evolve. As Nature does, we do. I have learnt that the more we reconnect with nature, the more alive we can become.
You took part in a British Exploring Society’s expedition to the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest where you camped in the jungle for three weeks. How has this experience influenced your connection to nature?
At my lowest, I received what could be regarded as a gift and a blessing. An opportunity to be part of a British Exploring Society’s expedition to the Peruvian Amazon rainforest. I spent three weeks in a remote part of the jungle, with no phone or contact with the outside world, with a group of people that I barely knew.
This, in many ways, was a life-changing experience for me. I experienced the beauty of nature, where there was no judgement, just life teaming with energy and opportunity. And bonds of friendship and loyalty with strangers who had to discover ways to live and work together in order to be successful. On my return I started to think about connecting with other people, particularly with young people like myself, some of whom have never had the opportunity to experience anything other than poverty and hardship. I wanted to explore if a connection with nature, could touch them in a similar way.
This led to the start of City Girl in Nature, as a way to give back to my community. To share my love and passion for the outdoors, and belief that everybody should have the chance to be healed, to be nourished, and to life with abundance.
How can nature heal ourselves and our communities?
We are often locked in our rooms and houses, sitting on our chairs and sofas, isolated from each other, increasingly looking at screens, with little natural light. This immobility and disconnection impacts on both our physical and mental health. Being outdoors, in nature, we begin to reconnect with our true selves. No longer alone, we begin to reconnect with life beyond our own, with light, and sound, and breath. The evidence is overwhelming that this is good for our health and wellbeing.
How can we begin to think more collectively?
By having the conversations. We are distracted, and often overwhelmed. And for many, struggling with day-to-day challenges and concerns, we don’t often talk to each other about the things that we have in common, and the actions we must take together to build better worlds. In the outdoors and nature worlds, like in many other fields, there are not too many role models for black and minority communities. So changing this, and emerging more diverse leaders, will enable us to build more collective movements for change.
Name a TV series, film, podcast, or documentary that blew your mind?
Planet Earth on the BBC with David Attenborough. And Planet Earth II that followed. I was captivated by this series, including its episodes on jungles; never thinking that I would one day be camping in the great Amazon rainforest. And The National Geographic Series, ‘One Strange Rock’ on how life survives and thrives on Earth, told with the help of real-life astronauts bringing their unique off-planet perspectives - how cool is that! Also from National Geographic, ‘Welcome to Earth’ with the actor Will Smith visiting wild and remote places. One of his guides, in Iceland, is the explorer Dwayne Field, who is someone that I am truly inspired by.
Which rituals do you practice to keep you grounded and connected to the outer world?
Some of the things I do to stay grounded is to literally go outside and ground (taking my shoes off, placing bare feet on the earth, or simply just sitting). I often take long and silent walks and open my eyes and ears and nose to the sights, sounds, and smells of mother nature, from our trees and plants to our birds and insects, appreciating their mystery and beauty.
Could you suggest someone else or other organisations you admire that we could approach for #TheNatureKind?
The role models that I admire and follow include Steppers UK, Black Girls Hike, Flock Together, Black Geographers, Muslim Hikers, Dwayne Fields & David Lindo.
To learn more about Kwesia and City Girl in Nature subscribe to her YouTube channel and follow on Instagram at @CityGirlinNature and Twitter @CityGirlNature.
Born and raised in France, Alice is an artist and Modern Languages postgraduate student at the University of Oxford. Alice started sharing her drawings after being diagnosed with autism and ADHD, she aims to break stereotypes about gender, age, and race that surround autism and cause a lot of misunderstanding. She is the founder and president of the UCL autism society and has been involved in numerous talks and campaigns about neurodiversity, autistic women and mental health.
Easkey Britton is the first Irish woman to be nominated for the Global WSL Big Wave Awards. Her parents taught her to surf when she was four years old and her life has revolved around the ocean ever since. A scientist, academic and social activist, with a PhD in Environment and Society, her work is deeply influenced by the ocean and the lessons learned pioneering women’s big-wave surfing in Ireland and the sport of surfing with women in Iran, which led her to be invited to give an inspiring TEDx talk: Just Add Surf. Her latest book, Ebb and Flow: Connect with the Patterns and Power of Water, is an exploration of water’s power to heal us, inspire us and offer us spiritual meaning. This is a feminist reimagining of the meaning of power through the lens of water.
Galahad Clark is a seventh-generation cobbler. His ancestors founded Clarks shoes, and he is now the driving force behind Vivobarefoot, which makes shoes that allow the wearer to enjoy the same range of movement and sensation as if walking barefoot.
Galahad is on a mission to battle the industry’s super brands through sustainable innovations like shoes made from algae, 3D-printed bespoke shoes made for feet and recommerce models like ReVivo. Vivobarefoot puts health and sustainability at the heart of its strategy. “My forefathers created the original social enterprises,” he says. “I want to be part of the blueprint for business as a force for good in the 21st century."
Josephine Marchandise is the Head of the Creative and No Waste Kitchen at Omved Gardens. Growing up in a farming family, passionate about cooking, gardening and regenerative food growing, Josephine has later rediscovered preservation and fermentation while trying to slow down and commit to a low waste lifestyle. From her favourite ingredient to experiment with at the moment, to what inspires her the most and her top three zero waste hacks in the kitchen, Josephine has shared it all with us.
David Behar Perahia is an artist and researcher, working on the seam between sculpture and architecture. He examines the interplay between art and action and examines the concept of "place" with reference to cultural, social, historical and physical-geographical elements. Through his work, he intervenes in existing places while changing, shifting and challenging the perception of reality as an absolute, creating an active viewing experience in which the viewers are an integral component of the work, from a concept that extends the relationship art / environment / audience. Common Views, created by Dan Farberoff and David Behar Perahia, explores the idea of Environmental Reconciliation, which touches on issues of social-ecological systems.
The photographs below from the Common Views project by: 1. Dan Farberoff; 2. Oren Amit; and 3. David Behar.
Randa is the assistant food grower and Seed Saving Network coordinator at OmVed Gardens. She is part of Community Apothecary where she prepares herbal remedies. She also enjoys foraging and learning about plants, ecology and photography. They are passionate about practices that interrupt notions of individualism, alienation from humans and the more-than-human, and separation from nature to grow towards symbiotic and collaborative futures. Randa has been facilitating foraging and wildcrafting walks for BPOC communities to connect with a sense of ecological belonging in the urban locale. She’s drawn to food as a way to reclaim the many crafts of the land and embed them in the landscape.
Louis VI isn't one to sit on the sidelines, he aims to help give BIPOC communities a voice on climate justice. On his second album EARTHLING, the London rapper and climate activist is directly challenging the colonial legacy of climate change. Travelling to the Amazon gathering field recordings, giving speeches at COP26 and making award-winning shorts, his album condenses these experiences around his own Dominican heritage. EARTHLING is packed with nature-fuelled field recordings from Amazon storms, to UK forests and tropical birds on Mexican coasts. It’s also stacked full of features from the friends and musicians that surround Louis - including Lex Amor, Oscar Jerome, Moses Boyd, Bluestaeb, Alex Cosmo Blake and Mick Jenkins.
Photo credits: Carlos Martí @carlosmart1 and Dylan James Moore
Naomi researches how dynamic cultures interact with food and farming practices through migration. She is the author of the recently released report on racial justice in farming in the UK, Jumping Fences, a collaboration between Land In Our Names, Ecological Land Cooperative and Landworkers’ Alliance, funded by Farming the Future. The report presents the experiences of Black and POC farmers and growers in Britain.
She is also a gardener, ecologist, singer and educator.
The 'Jumping Fences' Report: Land, Food and Racial Justice in Britain
Rooting en route: how migration can fix a broken food system
Moïse Polobi is a 69-year-old musician from Guadeloupe. He’s been singing and sounding his djembé-like Gwo ka drums since childhood, heart-beating the memory of his ancestors. He was drawn to the drums of the léwoz (traditional rural music performances in Martinique and Guadeloupe), performing and singing with different Gwo Ka groups, throwing himself into a trance through hypnotic dance.
Polobi & the Gwo Ka Masters’ latest album, Abri Cyclonique, is out now (17 February 2023) on Real World Records. Drawing inspiration from the heart of the tropical forest, the mystical character of Polobi and his musicians collaborate with idiosyncratic producer Doctor L (Les Amazones d’Afrique, Mbongwana Star), forging a radical new take on the Gwo Ka musical tradition. An electro-acoustic palette and offbeat rhythms adorn these deeply rooted Creole songs.
Images by Karen Paulina Biswell
Tej is the assistant food grower and The Seed Saving Network coordinator at OmVed Gardens, a gardener, scholar and interdisciplinary artist. His thinking weaves together various strands, including growing and being in 'nature' as an act of centring wellbeing; the power of social movements in our present time of several overlapping climate and social crises and ways of being and bearing witness to a world fundamentally changed by anthropogenic climate change. In the pre-pandemic world, Tej pursued formal training in Dramaturgy at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, while there were parts of that world he enjoyed, he never felt at peace. The pandemic, like for countless others, forced him to pause and rethink, leading him to refind gardening and growing.
Jo is a freelance digital marketing consultant and owner of an allotment plot in a local community garden where she enjoys growing her own food. She is the social media editor for Where the Leaves Fall and OmVed Gardens. Before joining the team, she most recently worked at Global Citizen as International Marketing Director, working on some of their biggest campaigns to end extreme poverty, including music festivals in London, New York, Paris and Johannesburg. She lives in north London with her partner and two cats. Images by Thom Podmore.
Rosanna Morris' linocut and woodcut illustrations are traditional yet contemporary, delicately floral and yet full of the power and strength of revolution. She studied illustration in London and works from her studio in the southwest of England. When not drawing or creating prints you can find her working her allotment or tending to her three wild children. The illustrations below were created for the Landworker’s Alliance On Common Ground Calendar 2023.
Claire Ratinon is an organic food grower and writer based in East Sussex. She has worked in a range of roles from growing produce for the Ottolenghi restaurant, Rovi to delivering growing workshops and talks to audiences including East London primary schools, community centres and educational institutions. Claire is passionate about the act of growing plants - especially edible ones - and the potential for it to be nourishing, connecting and healing. Her second book Unearthed: On Race and Roots, and How the Soil Taught Me I Belong was released in June 2022. Portraits by Christian Cassiel / @christiancassiel
Madeleine Bazil is a multidisciplinary artist and writer interested in memory, intimacy and the ways we navigate worlds - real and imagined. She is also the editor of Where the Leaves Fall’s Sunday slow-read newsletter, The Rhizome. Raised in the US and educated in the UK, Madeleine currently lives and works in South Africa.
Ameena Rojee is a portrait and documentary photographer who enjoys telling stories about adventure, the outdoors and our relationship with the natural world. Ameena is also the editor of the Where the Leaves Fall newsletter The Weekly Round Up.
Becky Lyon is an English x Jamaican artist and ‘artecologist’ exploring how art practice can re-body us back into the animate, vibrant, tangly messwork of our ecology. She is interested in ecology as an alternative curriculum or sourcebook for inhabiting the Earth in ways that foster more co-flourishing and care and challenge the logic of "dominion" at the sour core of multiple injustices.
Her work manifests in multiple forms from tactile installations to rituals, sensory artefacts and word-foolery. She hosts participatory gatherings of and for all kinds - from dead wood walking trails to summer-scented gatherings around the fire; touchy-feely seminars and reading groups that rip B|T|W|N THE L|AV|S.
She is a ranger for London National Park City supporting grassroots organisations and hoping to re-enchant the perception of urban ecology through creativity. An inherent discipline-smoosher, she has a MA in art & science from Central Saint Martins and is currently studying for a MA in art & ecology at Goldsmiths.
Judith Alder is a British visual artist with a multi-faceted practice, working across a range of media and processes informed by science. Her work is directed by her premise on the process of evolution in the 21st century; that scientists can create and manipulate biological life, technologists are creating artificial life, inanimate objects often appear to take on a life of their own, and some things seem to be neither dead nor alive.
She has exhibited in The Freud Museum, London and Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne and was shortlisted for The Jerwood Drawing Prize 2012. In 2015 she was nominated for The Drawing Room Bursary Award. Her solo Vital Signs, curated by Sanna Moore, will be held at The Royal Society of Birmingham Artists Gallery from 14 to 25 February 2023 and has been funded by Arts Council, England.
Sui Searle (she/her) is a gardener, writer and printmaker. She has worked in botanic, public, private and community gardens as well as having spent a short period writing for gardening magazines. She is the founder of @decolonisethegarden which focuses on bringing a decolonial lens and anti-racism perspective to horticulture and is editor of the online gardening newsletter, Radicle.
Talia Woodin is a youth activist, photographer and filmmaker based in the UK. She’s spent the past four years organising with various campaigns within the climate and environmental movement, including spending a year living on and documenting the frontline environmental defence campaign against HS2 (a destructive high-speed rail infrastructure project). She has recently re-released her debut short documentary COP-out, exploring the youth climate justice movement's participation with COP and is currently organising with The Resistance Exhibition.
Love Ssega is a musician and artist. He is currently Artist in Residence for Philharmonia Orchestra and his work as the original frontman and founding songwriter for Clean Bandit landed in the UK charts and has also been performed globally. The multi-arts 2021 commission ‘Airs of the South Circular’, highlights the impact of air on the Black community in South London, and reached 100,000 of his local London Borough of Lewisham’s 300,000 residents.
His Live + Breathe campaign in saw Love Ssega collaborate with local community groups in Southwark and Lambeth and record a new piece ‘Capes For Blue Skies’ with the Philharmonia Orchestra. As a result of his work and advocacy, he was invited to speak at United Nations COP26 in Glasgow. Love Ssega is currently a Trustee of Shadwell Opera, Brian Eno-led music climate initiative EarthPercent and was also awarded the Arts Foundation Music For Change Fellowship in 2022. (Photo credits: Ben Millar Cole and Sophie Harbinson)
Talia Chain founded Sadeh, the UK's Jewish farm and land-based community in 2017. As the director, Talia's role includes working on the land, teaching on Sadeh Farm's fellowship programme, running education and volunteer sessions and fundraising for Sadeh's environmental and educational projects. She is currently raising £100,000 for Sadeh Farm to increase access to nature for all.
David Reeve is the co-editor and co-founder of Where the Leaves Fall magazine and a filmmaker with various music videos and films, including Y/our Music and Minute Bodies: The Intimate World of F. Percy Smith, under his belt.
Ruth Andrade from Lush's Regenerative Impact team, has a masters in Advanced Environmental and Energy Studies. She is a trustee and co-founder of Re.Alliance, a collective of practitioners bringing regenerative design to the humanitarian and development sectors; and a co-creator of Regenerosity, an initiative with a mission to flow resources, enable learning and share stories to grow the regenerative movement in partnership with funders and grassroots initiatives. Originally from Brazil, Ruth grew up in a concrete jungle, witnessing first-hand the destruction of the natural environment which prompted an early interest in environmental issues and fuelled a great passion for driving change.
Dr Delfina Fantini van Ditmar is a biologist, design researcher and Senior Lecturer at the Royal College of Art. Her practice is concerned with ecological thinking, reflective practices, epistemological paradigms and alternative futures. Delfina has been a visiting lecturer in several institutions, including The Bartlett, Architectural Association, Manchester School of Art, University of Brighton and the University for the Creative Arts among others. As a part of the Design Museum and Future Observatory's Design Researchers in Residence Programme, Delfina is responding to environmental collapse from a systemic perspective with research examining dematerialisation. Portrait by Pierre Bailly and exhibition photographs by Felix Speller.
Samuel Iliffe is a design engineer focused on the use of innovative materials and processes to address everyday problems. As a part of the Future Observatory Design Researchers in Residence programme hosted by the Design Museum, Samuel is exploring the issue of water pollution and eutrophication in the UK, with a focus on the role that algae play. Photographs courtesy The Design Museum.
Niellah Arboine is a writer, editor and broadcaster born and raised in south London. She is an original member of gal-dem and the deputy editor at Where the Leaves Fall. Niellah has written for the likes of Vogue, Guardian, House & Garden, Vice and Time Out London. She has contributed to Daunt Books’ In the Garden: Essays on Nature and Growing, and was shortlisted for the Nan Shepherd Prize 2021 for nature writing.
Will is a photographer, producer and director who works across several fields from music photography to commercial film production. He is a member of Forest Studio, a boutique creative studio based in east London. He enjoys long-distance running, improv comedy and owls.
Ellen is a public speaker, activist and guerrilla gardener who founded Nature is a Human Right, the campaign to make access to green space a universal right. She also edited the book Nature is a Human Right: Why We're Fighting For Green in a Grey World (DK 2022) and founded Dream Green, the social enterprise that empowers people to become guerrilla gardeners.
Masha Karpushina is a Moscow born, London-raised illustrator and mural artist interested in the real and the surreal. She is driven by the power of nature, the beauty within man and beast, traditions of past generations and the essence of love.
Susanna Grant is a planting designer who specialises in plants for shady spaces. She runs Linda, a dappled courtyard space in London’s Hackney that sells shade-loving plants for sills, balconies, courtyards and gardens. She has also written the Bloom Gardener's Guide - Shade - Work with the light, grow the right plants, bring dark corners to life. Portrait by Aloha Bonser Shaw.
Darren Appiagyei is a woodturner based in London, UK. He graduated from UAL Camberwell College of The Arts where he studied 3D design. His practice is about embracing the intrinsic beauty of wood, be it knot, bark or grain. Photos by Will Hearle and Thomas Broadhead.
Tijana Lukovic is a Belgium based illustrator whose artworks contain traces of folklore, mythology and a love for nature. Her images are rooted in the changing seasons and her inner world as she explores the forest of her childhood memories.
Lisa-Marie Price is a London based abstract painter who explores the connection between nature, people and place. Her methodical style is created using handmade watercolour sourced from natural pigment foraged from both urban and rural settings, forging a unique connection between the land and her paintings.
Jini Reddy is a writer and journalist, and is the author of Wanderland which was shortlisted for the Stanford Dolman Award for Travel Book of the Year, and for the Wainwright Prize for UK Nature Writing. She’s also contributed to the landmark anthology Women on Nature, and before that, Winter. As a journalist and travel writer, Jini has written for publications including The Guardian, The Times, The Telegraph, the Independent, TIME magazine, National Geographic Traveller, Resurgence and the Ecologist, and in 2019 was named one of National Geographic’s Women of Impact.
Jini has also written several texts for Where the Leaves Fall - her writing occupying a cross-genre space where place, spirituality, nature and culture meet.
Alice Vincent started to share her journey into gardening in 2014 with Noughticulture and has since written the books How to Grow Stuff: Easy, No-Stress Gardening for Beginners (2017) and Rootbound: Rewilding a Life (2020), and written and read the audio guide Seeds from Scratch (2020).
Photographs by Camilla Jørvad, except the balcony and book cover images which are by Alice Vincent.
Zayaan Khan is an artist whose work finds a resting place through food as a means of understanding the world, particularly seed, land and our collective heritage. Her Instagram page notes that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" and she also runs the Seed Biblioteek - reconnecting seed with story, towards resilience and sovereignty. As she notes: "Seed is our land, heritage and future".
Marie Smith is a visual artist and writer who was born, lives and works in London. Her practice incorporates text and photography as a form of visual language and her experience with anxiety and depression has informed how she addresses identity, nature, environmentalism, mental health and wellbeing. Having graduated with an MA in History in Art with Photography from Birkbeck, Marie is an Associate Lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London and Portsmouth University.
Will Burns was named as one of the Faber and Faber New Poets for 2014. His first full collection, Country Music, was published in 2020, and his debut novel, The Paper Lantern, was published in July 2021. He was named as one of The Observer’s Top 10 Debut Novelists of 2021 and is the OmVed Gardens poet in residence.
Amelia Rouse is from Barbados. While she studied civil engineering, her first love is illustration and she produces beautiful work in pen and ink with an emphasis on nature. She’s been illustrating for Where the Leaves Fall since issue #3.
Oluwaseyi Oso is a Nigerian writer, poet, singer/songwriter, and photography enthusiast. His writing and poems often touch on environmental and human rights issues.
We asked Oluwaseyi about his connection to nature, how nature guides his practice and how storytelling can shape our collective conscious.
Maia Magoga is a visual artist, cook and food grower from London, UK. With a Brazilian and Argentinian heritage, Maia has become fascinated by food’s potential to nurture a sense of belonging and initiate conversations around ecology and ancestral knowledge. Her practice focuses on the relationship between human and nonhuman nature and the intangible flows of exchange between human and environment, body and land. We talked with Maia about the lessons she learned in nature, the rituals she practice to keep her grounded and how food can help us to think and act more collectively.
Vicky Chown is a medical herbalist, forager and gardener. She teaches permaculture and urban food growing in Queen’s Wood Community Garden and OmVed Gardens in London - where she also co-organises The Seed Saving Network - a biodiverse community of seed savers in London and across the United Kingdom.
Vicky also co-runs, alongside Kim Walker, The Handmade Apothecary, a foraging and herbal educational project. Together they have co-authored two books: The Handmade Apothecary and The Herbal Remedy Handbook.
Karen Leason is the director and founder of OmVed Gardens, a garden, exhibition space and sustainable food project in north London, which aims to re-establish the connection between the urban population, food and nature.
A partner of the UN World Food Programme and Chefs Manifesto, OmVed aims to educate and inspire conversations around sustainable food practices and ecological transformations. Committed to foster creativity and community-led change, OmVed Gardens plays host to an inspiring collective of artists, creatives, horticulturalists and chefs. Follow @omvedgardens to find out more and join their upcoming events.