Shama Khanna profile

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Shama Khanna

Kingston University London (2023)


Dr Bill Balaskas


The garden as a site to cultivate queer anti-racist communities


This research will engage in the crossover between contemporary art practice and urban ecology to extend the way both contexts are understood and engaged with, and by whom. There is a pressing need, exposed in sharp relief by events during the pandemic, for art and ecology to be relevant to broader sections of society. Interaction with plants – contrasting lived experience and practices by people of colour with received exclusionary Western approaches to engaging with ecology – allows for histories of suppression and marginalisation to come to the fore.

The research investigates ‘the garden’ as a space to cultivate divergent histories, sensibilities and subjectivities and explores how anti-racist communities inform, inspire and sustain themselves in relation to plants and the land. Importantly, this CDA will allow me to conduct this enquiry ‘on the ground’ – by developing an actual garden at London Borough of Barking and Dagenham (LBBD)’s East Manor House where the development of my project will involve the active participation of diverse stakeholders (local communities, staff, archivists, etc.) invested in the site. Creating a garden as a central component of my research in collaboration and exchange with LBBD’s communities and supported by the council’s team of experts will allow me to significantly contribute to current debates around and developments in community-led artistic gardening practice and explore its ethical dimensions. My approach will be holistic and inclusive, fusing and building on my existing expertise developed as an artist, academic, curator, writer, and gardener.

Contributing to LBBD’s New Town Culture strategy, my research will seek to develop alternate forms of representation and modes of participation. These will complement LBBD’s public engagement strategies at time when the Borough is in the process of developing a more accurate understanding of the diverse and complex make-up of its inhabitants’ ethnicities, cultures and identities.