Plants as Artifacts: Living Practices of Sugar and Coffee

  • May 14, 2022 12:00 PM - 3:30 PM

    38 West 86th Street
    New York, New York 10024
Ticket Price $0.00-$15.00 This event is now over

Plants as Artifacts: Living Practices of Sugar and Coffee
Saturday, May 14 at 12 pm - 3:30 pm


Connect with the plant behind the commodity! Join New York-based education platform and artist collective Herban Cura for knowledge-shares about sugar and coffee—active matter often consumed as fuel for productivity. As two of the most globally commodified plants, sugar and coffee have been taken out of their original ecologies, often in ways that perpetuate violence against the plants as well as their human stewards, the many peoples who have been impacted by colonization across the globe. Even as colonial violence persists, many living practices that depend on plant-people relations continue to exist and evolve.

In one knowledge-share, you can explore coffee through a traditional roasting and sipping ceremony from the Ethiopian tradition offered by Tigist Kelkay. In the other, Christine Brooks will guide you through pressing fresh sugar cane to taste on site while looking at different ways in which this plant has been refined and commodified.

Herban Cura, curated by Antonia Estela Pérez, Sebastián Pérez, and Em McCann Zauder, seeks to create access to ancestral and plant wisdom—both through the rematriation of Indigenous life-ways and through remembrance and reclamation of how to live in solidarity with the earth and with our human and more-than-human kin.



Knowledge Shares 



Ethiopian Coffee Ritual with Tigist Kelkay


An invitation to a visceral experience offering a window to take time and find slowness in everyday life and magic in familiar moments.


The famed Ethiopian coffee ritual is an experience for all the senses. Conversation flowing, the aroma and sound of the roasting beans, the wafting of burning incense, passing tiny cups full of the precious liquid while being careful not to spill any of it, and that first sip that erases all fatigue and worries.


Coffee was discovered in Ethiopia growing wild, many centuries ago. As the birthplace of coffee, the ritual of preparing it has reached a fine point. Rituals can last for hours as the coffee (buna) is roasted, ground, brewed, and drunk. It is an essential safe place for the young and the old to meet, where topics such as politics, community, and gossip are discussed.


A Meditation on Sugarcane, Sweetness, and History with Jess Turner


An invitation to trace the social and political trajectory of sugarcane as a medicine, food, and commodity,and to understand and recall right relationship with sweetness as our birthright.


In plants, sugars are energy. Many of the medicinal plants whose powers are held in roots we know to harvest in the fall, after plants have sent their energy back into the ground. Polysaccharides, powerful, immuno-modulating compounds found in everything from medicinal mushrooms to marshmallow root, are long chains of sugars that are water-soluble, moistening and nourish the immune system.


This offering will be a both/and exploration of the physiology of sweetness, molecular impact of white sugar in our bodies and an attempt to hold the notion of sweetness as our birthright. We will endeavor to hold consciousness of the problematic ways that sugar has shaped our relationships with our bodies and the earth alongside a rich treatment of the plant itself. We will explore how we can celebrate sugarcane and reach toward nourishment without becoming consumed by the plant in its simplest form.


Date & Time

Sat, May 14, 2022 12:00 PM - 3:30 PM

Venue Details


38 West 86th Street
Bard Graduate Center

Bard Graduate Center is devoted to the study of decorative arts, design history, and material culture through research, advanced degrees, exhibitions, publications, and events.

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