Guerrilla herbs turn to art, and prisoners race to their own finish

The Week, May 3: Guerrilla herbs turn to art, prisoners embrace the race, our city for sale?

Art activist Serina Zapf and the Green Tongues Collective are planting ideas about medicinal herbs.

Guerrilla herbs turn to art

With summer fast approaching, it’s little wonder the flowers and activist movements are sprouting up all around us, but one very special art project has residents looking forward to some radical seasonings for the season.

Art activist Serina Zapf is at it again, this time growing attention through her newest project, “The People’s Apothecary,” a medicinal herb garden and public art piece that bloomed last week by the Green Tongues Collective. The apothecary, located at Slide Room Gallery (2549 Quadra), aims to be an herbal commons — what Zapf calls “a living, changing alternative to the dominant ways our lives are organized in colonial state-capitalist society.” She hopes the garden will work to develop self-reliance and community resilience through healing herbs, permaculture and sharing space together.

“We want to decentralize medicine — herbs are the medicine of the people, and healing with plants should be free, accessible and community-based knowledge and practice,” says Zapf, Green Tongues curator. “We want to create space for conversations and contestations about colonialism and our role as settlers here.”

To start that conversation, Zapf and the collective will host a free opening celebration of the apothecary on Saturday, May 5, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. A participatory art installation will be showcased in the gallery, including photographs of the garden’s creation. Zapf welcomes everyone to share their thoughts and experiences with the garden through drawings, writing or collage. Local writer and permaculturalist Megan Francis will read stories from her children’s book, Herbal Ditties for the Kiddies, and collective members will offer a tincture-making workshop.

Zapf sees the garden as a way to empower others to gain a deeper understanding and connection to their bodies and the land, thereby enabling them to better heal themselves and the land.

“We are going to garden and grow our medicine in a way that honours and regenerates the local ecology, and respects the innate intelligence and brilliance of the land itself,” says Zapf.

Learn more about the apothecary and group at

Prisoners embrace the race

A big congratulations goes to all the runners of the TC 10K this week, especially to a particularly convicted group of individuals who were so determined to run the race that they fashioned their own track.

Nineteen inmates at William Head Institution paid the $40 entry fee so that they would be permitted to run the 10K. Since the men weren’t allowed outside the penitentiary, however, determined inmate organizers worked with the William Head staff and TC race coordinator to run a satellite version of the event along a picturesque footpath that lines the perimeter of the compound.

The inmates received no subsidies for their race fees, but gathered their few dollar-a-day earnings to donate a total of $760 in race fees to the event.

Jeffrey Kent, the inmate who initiated the satellite race idea, says the annexed event helped give men in the institution a physical transformation to work towards at the same time as  dedicating their money to in-need charities. Kent, a runner himself, says activity has been an important part of his own healing path — he has gone from  240 lbs when he was sentenced back in 2010 to 180 lbs.

“While we are often unable to change the fact we have to be in here, we can nonetheless impact the meaning we find in the experience,” wrote Kent in a letter to Monday. “Some people choose to stay in a stasis of low energy, others find glory in the process of self-discovery … there is hope of a new way of living.”

For sale: our city?

Interesting turn of events this week, as the City of Victoria has stated it will consider selling off four city-owned industrial waterfront properties in Vic West, valued at $17 million, to none other than Ralmax, the company that currently leases the land and was sub-contracted to deconstruct the Johnson Street Bridge.

The city could not discuss the sale without council approval, but this week councillors Ben Isitt and Shellie Gudgeon voted against exploring the possibility of the sale, and are now hosting their own public forum on Wednesday, May 9, 7 p.m. at Fairfield Community Centre (1335 Thurlow, Garry Oak Room), in an effort to let residents have a say on what will happen to the land.

“A surprising amount of time has been devoted to in-camera discussions relating to the sale of public land, without engaging the public,” says Gudgeon. “Land is a valuable asset and the public needs to have opportunities for input to ensure it is managed strategically and in the city’s long-term best interest.”

More to come on this, as interest fires up. M

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