The jury of the Scientific Image Competition of the SNSF has selected a photograph by Melanie Boehi as one of the best works presented (Distinction Category “Locations and Instruments”). The works selected by the jury will be presented in two exhibitions in Paris and Zurich.
Melanie took the photo “String Game” on 6 December 2016 at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, the place where she conducts most of the research for her PhD dissertation about the history of botany, gardening and plant-cultures in South Africa. A storyboard in the garden explained that the depicted “string designs make it difficult for the [Egyptian Geese (Alopochen aegyptiacus) who are eating our seedlings and threatening to ruin the flower displays] to walk thorugh. They help keep the geese out of the worst affected areas and give the seedlings a chance to grow, and flower.” However, for Melanie, the string designs also carry the meaning of the string figures described by the eminent feminist science scholar Donna Haraway in her recently published book with the programmatic title “Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene”. Haraway writes: “String figures are like stories; they propose and enact patterns for participants to inhabit, somehow, on a vulnerable and wounded earth.” Like with the string figures described by Haraway, there is something playful about Kirstenbosch’s string designs. Staff members’ hands fastening the strings tightly around the metal sticks, prosthetic hands of the soil, thereby drawing white lines and geometrical figures against a canvas of brown soil and green vegetation. Like a message written in a secret script. As a historian Melanie wonders, what are the stories?