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Thus Soil, 故,土”

Updated: Apr 11

Thus Soil, 故,土”, an ecopoetic dialogue by students, artists, poets, and educators on human-soil relations, co-curated by Dr Emily Zong and myself opened at the Main Library of Baptist University.



For this project I conducted a soil and soil art workshop for the students, a lecture on different perspectives on soil and painted a large geological map of Hong Kong entirely with local soil and natural pigments, which was quite challenging and took many steps. The students were encouraged to respond to the map with soil paintings, poems and writing linked to areas of Hong Kong and elsewhere that held particular meaning to them.




Congratulations to all the students for their beautiful and thoughtful artworks and poetry. I certainly gained many fresh insights on soil from this project.



The art exhibition unfolds in three parts – (1) “Remapping: My Soil Story,” which features personal narratives and artworks connected to soil; (2) “Ecopoetics: Soil Poetry,” where ecology meets poetry; and (3) “Felt Texture: Soil Emotions,” an interactive exploration of the emotions that soil evokes in the young generation.



The exhibition title, “Thus, Soil,” draws inspiration from the name of Buddha Tathāgata, 如來, which means “Thus come; Thus gone.” With “thus” meaning “in this way” and “cause and effect”, the exhibition appeals to ecological mindfulness. It composes an appreciation of soil as the abiding ground and eternal law for all life through our embodied experiences and relational becomings.

At the heart of the project lies a collaborative experiment between David Sheil and HKBU environmental humanities students: a map of Hong Kong. This unique map, painted with hand-ground soil pigments, displays the diverse colours of the region’s natural soils and geological sediments. Student artists have reinterpreted this map through “embodied soil stories” at multiple sites that have personal connections to them across Hong Kong and beyond. Through methods of urban foraging, place-based poetry, and felt work, the “Thus, Soil” exhibition aims to raise ecological awareness of the overlooked soil lifeworlds beneath our feet and how our everyday life is deeply rooted in the soil.

The exhibition opening and poetry reading event was held on Tue, 9 April 2:30-3:30 pm, Au Shue Hung Memorial Library (L3), HKBU.


Thus, Soil is funded by the Education Fund, ECS, Hong Kong Research Grants Council (project no. 22614922).




Getting feedback and feelings about soil and the exhibition …





Special thanks to Dr Emily Zong, Assistant Professor Department of Humanities and Creative Writing at Baptist University, for her creative dynamism in developing the project and Jane Yang for making it all happen!



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