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Duileasc: Foraging as Activism

An interview with interview with Danae Wollen and Samuel Arnold Keane, conducted by Suzie Cahn of Shifting Tides

As multidisciplinary artists, the living world is what gives Samuel and Danae of Duileasc the greatest inspiration; they explore it under canopies, submerged in the sea, climbing coastlines, crossing streets. 

Samuel has developed a rich understanding and knowledge of the coast and ocean through his work as a seaweed forager and surf/ocean awareness instructor. Danae’s background is in zoology, before becoming a circus arts dance performer. They have utilised their combined knowledge and thirst for exploration to create art based on experiences of food gathering and a coastal lifestyle. In particular, they are awed by ancestral know-how.  

Duileasc is their creative project, a forum for collaboration using a variety of disciplines, including illustration, music, circus, dance and physical performance. It reaches out to audiences of all ages to inspire a similar curiosity for the natural world. Their work explores many aspects of heritage, tradition, and lost ecological knowledge, but aims to revive these issues in a contemporary context.  


Samuel and Danae were asked to share how foraging overlaps with current issues, and how it can be utilised as a form of activism:


Our art cannot be explored without considering the social and political aspects of the past and present. We aim to merge cross-border initiatives by connecting people with their local shores and their biodiversity. We are interested in expanding our sense of place, as communities interlinked with our environment. 

Carlingford Lough and the surrounding counties of Louth and Down offer a rich tapestry of people, their story and the unique tidal landscape. Our shared philosophy fosters a deep belief that, in times of climate uncertainty and biodiversity collapse, individuals and communities are more likely to defend the health of their local ecological systems if they grow a relationship and dependence on them for their own healthy living and sustainable livelihoods. This can be through small acts such as collecting seaweed for their garden fertiliser or for their dinner plate. It can be through gathering or farming shellfish, or through relying on a clean ocean to swim in. Anyone engaged with the sea in these ways will no doubt fight harder for it to remain balanced and healthy as a system.

Politically and socially speaking, we believe our work touches on many historical and present day sources of conflict and oppression throughout the world. During the Irish famine, it was forbidden in many places for people to forage seaweed or to gather seafood in order to feed themselves. As a consequence, in the years following the famine, foraging for your own food became a shameful indication of poverty. In the century following the famine, many Irish people lost their relationship to foraging seaweed and no doubt our present-day knowledge is greatly diminished as a result. 

Living in a globalised world, we see similar things happening in many different places. New laws restrict ancient activities within Palestine, where locals are strictly forbidden from foraging the traditional plant akkoub, used to make zaatar, enforced as a means of stripping power and culture away from people.

Here on the island of Ireland, there is a constant threat to our rights as people to access places of ‘wilderness’- as determined as a space unbuilt, allowed to grow and not selling anything. As creative foragers, we are constantly seeking the freedom to flow, or even to challenge the concept of  ‘trespassing.’  We have learned that once Carlingford Lough locals challenged such restrictions on access, taking down walls that had been built restricting access to the shoreline. 

For us, exercising our abilities and rights to forage for our own food is an expression of community resilience and heritage. It can also serve as a powerful political statement, asserting control over our own survival and emphasising the importance of preserving the resilience of our natural habitats. 

This not only prompts communities to safeguard their local sources of nourishment but also fosters community strength, reducing dependence on an increasingly unsustainable food system destined for collapse. Initiatives like Shifting Tides, situated at the intersection of a rich ecological and economic marine system and a political and social border, provide a valuable learning environment. Such projects offer insights into addressing the intricate, interconnected issues arising in our rapidly changing world. 

As part of Shifting Tides, Samuel and Danae will be performing their show, ‘Where Seaweed Dances’, and run a series of workshops around Carlingford Lough::

Our show is a performance suitable for children and families. It invites audiences to be immersed and inspired by the sea and coastal habitats; it suggests exploration of these places through engaging our natural curiosity and appreciation for beauty. The show was initially developed through the islandconnect residency programme, where we spent a month totally immersing ourselves in the development stage of the creative process. This included research and exploration within island and coastal communities of Ireland and in Bornholm, Denmark; digging into local traditional ecological knowledge of the sea and coast. 

As part of Shifting Tides, we will run a variety of workshops for the community, including ecologically based ones in seaweed foraging and coastal fauna identification. Other workshops we hope to run include creating visual and physical/movement/dance art based on the exploration of the marine environment, which will involve sharing many aspects of our own creative processes.  

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