By Natalia Bezerra – MFA Art, Space, Nature
“Expect the unexpected”. This golden phrase could not have proved itself more true this summer. With support from the Erasmus+ Traineeship programme, I headed off to Spain for two months to participate in the WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) movement. Eager to learn about permaculture and off-grid living, I was filled with excitement for this upcoming journey, yet nervous about living with complete strangers in rural Spain.
I spent my first month at Sete Outeiros, an LGBTQ+ nature retreat located in the Ribeira Sacra region of Galiza, Spain. Here, there was no escaping the beautiful surrounding heather-covered hills and fresh smell of Iberian pine trees. Everywhere I went I couldn’t help but notice subtle movements in the landscape, such as fern beds dancing with even the slightest wind gust.
There was nothing like sleeping in a yurt, bathing in a river, using a dry compost toilet, and being completely immersed in silence. In addition to learning about sustainable living practices and completing daily tasks on the property, I also gained basic woodworking and joinery skills. I was able to put these skills to use when helping my host, Paris, build a bat box to keep mosquitos on-site at a minimum.
It sure took some time to adapt to living off the grid in a foreign place. There were times I found myself flooded with thoughts, with no way of easily escaping to urban life’s distractions. But then when I headed off to southern Spain to live in an intentional community for another month, things really took a huge turn.
Whilst gaining knowledge about permaculture this summer, I also had the opportunity to develop my artwork. I initially worked on developing a collection of travel drawings and paintings, documenting my explorations in the landscape. However, soon after I arrived to the community known as El Paraiso, my mentor Marc encouraged me to experiment with and explore my ideas through other art forms.
Marc was unlike anyone I had ever met before. A retired sound and image professor, he spent much of his time creating intricate and eclectic soundscapes, as well as building outdoor sound installations. The walls of the house he constructed were covered with instruments he had built over the years, such as didgeridoos, gimbris’, and his prized cello.
Here, I learned the value of daily mediation practice, which helped me build patience and concentration. After Marc inspired me to experiment with my work, I began testing different ideas: from creating a sculpture out of used wine corks and building rock stacking installations, to making natural pigments from dehydrated sources. In the end, I decided to create a land art installation using local materials such as a dead olive tree, lime, beetroot, and eco paint. The work, titled Memorial, seeks to raise awareness on what has been lost as a result of climate change.
This summer will surely be one I will never forget! Feel free to check out my work on my website: www.nataliabezerra.com