Black Oak Savannah (2016)
digital video, RT 20 minutes, colour / no sound

This work is meant to be projected as a large-scale three-channel looped video installation.

Black Oak Savanna documents the controlled burning of the High Park Oak Savanna. Approximately 10,000 years old, this rare and endangered ecosystem at one point covered much of Toronto’s west end. Cleared by Europeans, the savanna was difficult to maintain because colonial settlement led to the suppression of fire (both natural and anthropogenic) necessary to nurture the ecosystem. Currently, less then .5 percent of the savanna remains intact. The pre-colonial presence and integrity of savanna lands, and particularly High Park’s Black Oak savanna, is due to the efforts of First Nations, who employed controlled burns at judiciously chosen times to maintain the delicate balance of savanna ecosystems. In return, the savanna offered significant gifts, such as the growth of berries, nuts, fruit, tall grasses and other plants, which were important sources of food and medicine.

Oak Savanna is not intended to tell a story or to document a process or history per say, though it can also do that for the viewer. Rather, it is an exploration of how we materialize the unseen through a connection to the plants and other spirits.

Currently nearing the end of their life expectancy of 150 years, 

I visited the savanna on the day of the burn to honour my relationship to the trees and park space, in which I walk and pray everyday. Through this ritual burning, only taken up by colonial administration 16 years ago, I wanted to recognize the oaks in their continual holding of me, to give thanks for their teachings and to acknowledge their steadfastness in the midst of ongoing colonialism.

Oak Savannah, 2016 

digital video,
RT 20 minutes, colour / no sound

Work in progress (low res)

Using Format