Perspectives on Place: Nevo Zisin ‘Sense of Place’

As part of our commitment to championing ideas through contemporary art and cultural discourse, Melbourne Art Fair has engaged a diverse cohort of writers, academics, and artists to pen their intuitive response to the Fair’s thematic: djeembana/place. Released periodically until the opening of the Fair in February 2022, this series of writing offers unique and nuanced thinking on the meaning of place. The second installation of Perspectives On Place sees Nevo Zisin explore place through tender ideas of selfhood, lineage, the body and the earth in A Sense of Place.


A Sense of Place

I introduce myself
to the mosses as I walk through
I do not know their names but I seek to meet them
beyond words
the way that they meet me
beyond my name
Names are changeable
assimilated and obscured

I grew up without a connection
to my body or to a place –
a settler on stolen land
My people have been wandering so long
I’m not sure where our homeland lies
I find home in the lands
that nourish me

My home is attached to my mother
just as I once was
I am attached to the land
as my mother and it mothers

I do not belong to this land
And yet –
When I look to the moon I see through the eyes
Of my ancestors
I think of my ancestors as much as I
Think of my descendants
I do it all for them

I am finding connection
To my body
To a place

I do not know where my home is. But my home knows me.

In nature
I cannot be misgendered
I am made up of fungi
My gender becomes relative to the rocks
To the strong songs of the winds
To the loud gossip of the cockatoos
In nature
I cannot be misgendered

I have built home into my skin
in raised garden beds
Every night I come back to myself
tending to the little parts of me like
a garden in need of my care
The painful prunings give way to the most important of new beginnings
Tender parts need the greatest time to grow
they are the ones I wait for and slowly watch
with the changing of the seasons
I wait for bearing fruits
sometimes they never come
I learn the ecological make-up of my body
What I know is that there will be a lustrous garden
What I know is that it won’t last forever
Just like my healing, my growth
is not linear
There will be times of dormancy
where it feels like nothing is changing
And yet, the growth is happening
in the mycelial networks beneath me
It is not clear from the surface, and then
a bursting fruit grows from the ground up.

Our growth is not incidental
it is not temporal movement
but the tending by all we have encountered in our lives –
by our mother(s) of blood, spirit, ancestry, and soil.


Discover the Perspectives on Place series

Image: Nevo Zisin, photographed by Norelle Bladon for Otherness.Us