The surface movements and behavior of the components can be read in many directions. This is at the basis of my long-term project ‘The Society of Plants’. As a community that exist on the surface I examine how plants are used and are exploited to mark political and ethnic identities.

One of the plants I focused on is the Akub (Gundelia tournefortii). It is a rolling plant used for both food and healing. All over the Middle East Arabs identify, use and respect it. I noticed the Akub because of its special movement: before it dies it disconnects from the root, and it is rolling in the wind to spread its seeds as a mechanism of growth and living. This movement creates a network that tells us on the regime of the winds, of topography, of growth conditions and of blocking.

The changes in the movements of the Akub are unexpected, reminding us that no movement in nature is fixed and consistent. Therefore, the plant creates a fascinating grid and network that represent movement and obstruction of individuals and groups.

Another aspect that distinguishes the Akub from other tumbleweeds is the change effected a decade ago in its definition – from a bed weed into a preserved plant.  In the 1950s, the Israeli ministry of agriculture marked it as a bad weed, disturbing the work of Israeli farmers.  During the years the plant became very popular, and Arabs intensified its harvesting so as to provide the restaurants and the markets. The picking of the Akub requires know-how, in particular the extraction of the fruit from its thorny peel, which the Arabs perform daily and expertly. The picking of the plant was declared forbidden for the fear of the disappearance of plants from the national landscape. Palestinians who were expelled from their lands and live in refugee camps are now employed in Akub-picking by contractors. Because of their poverty they are forced to violate Israeli law, picking the plant for Jews from the land which was once theirs. This is followed by the arrival of the Green Police controllers who catch them, fine them, accusing them of destroying “our plants” and harming “our environment”. These contrasting events experienced by the Akub encapsulate the essence of occupation, appropriation and exclusion of the Arabs.

The Akkub and the Society of Bad Weeds