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The Forgotten Garden

Visual essay

2019

The Garden

 

This patch of land near the city of Suure-Jaani might look empty but this is a very special place. To me it is a ruin, which, along with its artefacts, reminds me of my childhood and the lives of my grandparents. This strip of land in the shape of a precise rectangle is part of the Soviet heritage since it was a section of a gardening cooperative which was given to my grandparents when they worked in a Kolhoz. There they could grow their own food and spend their free time by tending to the garden. These gardens are not unique in post-Soviet states but they are starting to disappear. After the Soviet Union collapsed my grandparents were able to keep this land. In my childhood I spent whole summers in that garden while working with my grandparents. This land helped me to earn my first salary by collecting and selling ripe berries. The working process was a way of bonding for us and I have many happy memories from that time. As the years went on I started to spend my summers at home, 200 km away from Suure-Jaani and in the late 00’s and in early 2010’s my grandparents spent less time tending to the garden as they were older and weaker. When grandmother passed away in 2011, grandfather continued to spend time in the garden and it seemed like the work kept him in good spirits but as the time went on and he started fade, the garden was starting to overgrow with weeds. In 2018 he passed away and the garden became state property.

Making pies

 

When my grandmother passed away I started to think about their lives and how could I record their memories for the next generations. It seemed like a good idea but it made me very uncomfortable. The thought of approaching my grandfather with the idea that he should record his memories before he dies made me anxious. It felt very unorganic and I did not want the task of a biographer. I just wanted to spend time with him and see what comes from it. So in 2015, when me and my brother drove to Suure-Jaani to visit him, I came up with an idea that he should make his signature mini pies and me and my brother should be the ones who inherit the recipe. When we usually visited or went to family gatherings he always made his mini pies and they were delicious but the story behind them was something to be told for generations. When my grandmother suffered a stroke in her forties, he had to take over all the household tasks and he had to learn how to cook and work in the kitchen. So to me, the smell of these pies does not only remind me of the time he put into perfecting that recipe but also the love between them. My earliest memories of my grandparents are of them talking in the kitchen while preparing a meal. I did not just want to write down the recipe so I filmed us making the pies together – me, him and my brother. While making pies we talked about our lives, about the past, present and future and in the end I edited it all together as a home video. To me this process felt organic and I came to terms with the impossibility of remembrance. Whichever way I edit, curate or represent his memories they will be filtered through my own memories of him.

 

The Walk Through

 The Garden

 

In the summer of 2018 I made the pilgrimage back to the now state owned garden. I wanted to walk through it one last time like I did so many times before. The walk through the garden went always from one bush to another to taste a berry or a fruit. So I tried to remember the old routes and while walking I found familiar artefacts like different tools that my grandfather had made. This brought back a lot of memories. What fascinated me was the overgrown garden as a landscape and as a metaphor for remembrance. Be it nostalgic or not, it is topped with layers which are influenced by the present. As they have passed away, their memories have passed with them, all we can do is walk through the weed-filled garden, trying to filter out the most important objects and put together our own narratives of their lives.

 

In memory of

Aime & Jaan.

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© 2019