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Film: ‘Garden Amidst the Flame’ by Natasha Tontey, queering approaches towards gender, youth & ecology

Text by CLOT Magazine

Garden Amidst the Flame is a new film by multidisciplinary artist and designer Natasha Tontey. It continues Tontey’s ongoing research into the ancient knowledge, technologies and cosmology of the Minahasa, an Indigenous nation in the North Sulawesi province of Indonesia. In this most recent work, the artist emphasises core Minahasa cultural beliefs in the all-encompassing equilibrium between the human and non-human.

Drawing on her experience of karai, a ceremony that grants Minahasan warriors an armour of invincibility, the artist seeks to establish a queering approach towards gender, youth and ecology. Tontey lives and works in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Her artistic practice predominantly explores fictional accounts of the history and myths surrounding ‘manufactured fear’. In her practice, she observes any possibilities of other futures that are projected not from the perspective of major and established institutions, but a subtle and personal struggle of the outcast entities and beings.

Garden Amidst the Flame is a coming-of-age story following the fantasies of a group of young Minahasan girls and attempts to resituate expected roles of gender and masculinity within Minahsan society, in the rapidly changing social and economic context of Indonesia. We observe some encounters that serve as entry points into the worldview of the Minahasa, an animistic society informed by a non-anthropocentric gift economy based on volunteerism, kinship and mutual aid with nature.

The playful interactions between the members of the child gang, and their engagement with the ancestral culture, take place in many contexts, including during a traditional tinutuan meal, and on a journey to an ancestral burial ground with waruga sarcophagi

Garden Amidst the Flame premiered this week at Auto Italia Gallery in London, which is also hosting an exhibition around the film until 4 December. The film also premieres at La Becque, in Switzerland, on September 20.

(Media courtesy of the artist)
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