The Land

Pieter Geenen

HD, 35′, 16:9, colour, stereo, 2015

English / Jamaican Patois / Flemish spoken; English subtitles

Supported by  Flemish Community; Flemish Community Commission; ARGOS Centre for Art and Media

While walking through the landscape the camera explores the so called Canadian tobacco belt of Southwestern Ontario. In the footsteps of the first European settlers on the American continent, the viewer discovers how the history of colonisation, cultivation and exploitation of these lands still resonates in present-day reality.
In this particular region the tobacco plant was part of that process. Taken out of its native context and its original use by indigenous people, it became part of an industry developed by European migrants (of which many were Belgian) during the twentieth century. The film addresses how the land was transformed, how cultures vanished, how identities faded or shifted, and how colonial power structures survive. The audience is taken from native chants and seemingly unspoiled nature to the Vanden Bussche Irrigation Company where the second generation of Belgian pioneers demonstrates different techniques to work and improve the land. The film ends at the tobacco plantation of Jim Demeulenaere, a farmer of Belgian origin, where the Creole speaking Jamaican seasonal labourers picked up some last surviving Flemish words.

Selected exhibitions & screenings:

Beursschouwburg Brussels 2020; ARGOS Centre for Art and Media Brussels 2015