Portal: 1918 Allotment by JC Niala brings together poetic, photographic and narrative documentation of her project recreating a 1918 style allotment in Oxford in 2021. The project explores relations between the 1918/1919 (Spanish Flu) and COVID-19 pandemics, World War One, and the role of outdoor space and allotments within them. Niala developed her plot as a living archive and outdoor writing studio, and hosted visitors there for a series of work-in-progress readings and events to literally ‘eat her research’. The resultant book, designed in collaboration with Julia Utreras and limited to 150 copies, is a beautiful evocation of her project, which will delight readers with an interest in art, poetry, food, horticulture and history.
Project and publication produced with support from Arts Council England & the Humanities Cultural Programme at The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities
JC Niala is an anthropologist, historian, nature writer, and poet. She is the author of A Loveliness Of Ladybirds which will be published by Little Toller in 2022. She has been a writer in residence for London Parks and Gardens Trust. Her doctoral thesis is entitled ‘Banal Utopia: urban gardening as a practice for materialising utopic spaces in cities’. A keen clarinet player – her project ‘Plant an Orchestra’ works to grow 700 Mpingo (Dalbergia melanoxylon) trees which will be used to make clarinets.
“Portal is a deeply grounded and vividly nourishing collection that roots us to acknowledged soils. Niala’s illustrious depictions of past, present, and future encapsulate the depth of reflection while fluidly exemplifying connection through history and who we are today. Portal’s richness of language and interwoven seeds offer us our very own allotment of recognition, lyricism, and candor. These writings are where earth and body, and grief and life come to meet, grow, and flourish. - Morgan Christie, author or ‘These Bodies’ and ‘When They Come’
“This book is an absolute joy to read. Like the allotment that inspired them, JC Niala’s words are rooted in a rich soil of research and knowledgeability, effortlessly extending their tendrils through time and across the globe. Her talent as a storyteller with an unparalleled lyric sensibility imparts a sense of wonder and “a chance for beauty to emerge from broken things”. From a tomato blight, to bees that ended a battle, or a refugee gardener encountering paradise, Niala’s poems sing of grief, hope, and history, making us care deeply about our place in the natural world.” - Laura Theis, author of ‘How to Extricate Yourself'