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by Alice Dupont with photographs by Jack Laing Aiken

In this poetic journey, Alice delved into the depths of cultural, agricultural, and gravitational influences, examining the ways in which the ground, soil, and clay support and shape human existence, exploring the coevolution of soil and plants, and how each person's handful of soil symbolizes them as an ambassador of their home country.


The project of  “Mundus Umbilicus" encouraged each of the residents to take a clump of soil from Maříž to their home country, promoting the exchange of the physical and symbolic aspects of the land. This exchange not only encouraged reflection on the soil we stand on, but also metaphorically used the soil of Maříž as a symbol of the vitality and nourishment that the experiences in Maříž bring to the collective


As a place that gathers humans, Maříž acts like a link, and, through us, weaves our background and places in an only mixed thing. This reminded me of the myth of the Umbilicus Urbis Romae and the Mundus in antic Rome.

The sources are quite obscure but it seems like Plutarque talked about this in chapter XIII of the first volume of his Lives of Illustrious Men. 


He talked about the ceremony made before the city was built, saying that, in the end, each one of the builders put in the central pit a handful of soil they'd brought from the countries they were from, after which the whole thing was mixed together. 


One gave to this ditch, as to the universe itself, the world name: Mundus. Other people talked about the Umbilicus Urbis Romae. The city wall was then traced around the moat in the shape of a circle. It seems that, according to some sources, each new citizen did the same, throwing in a handful of soil to belong there. A place was built for this ritual, a pit in the middle of the city.


This story started a soil exchange between humans who spent time nourishing their spirit in Maříž, and Maříž’s history and environment.

Cultural, agricultural, gravity; ground, soil, clay, as supports for human beings. A dialogue with the travellers, a dialogue with the place.


Each soil has its own characteristic. 


And with this tale in mind, we can see that soil holds every seed but not every one of them grows. It depends on their needs; a forest in the hand, dormant or activated seeds; we could say that soil compositions are supposed to shape the surfaces, and they evolve according to what they encounter. 


Coevolution, succession and transformation. 

Plants feeding soil, soil feeding plants. In between there is us. 

The handful of soil we share becomes an ambassador from everyone's original places.

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