Artist Charles Buenconsejo has left his home in the Philippines to make a new one in New Zealand, one that promises purity and connection with nature. He instead finds a society that poses familiar challenges even as he is “making it” according to Filipino standards of progress, having migrated to First World comfort. Homelessness and poverty seem an intensifying albeit new reality for New Zealand, and the country’s aggressive push for construction in the face of this reality intrudes into his suburban dream.
Twice the migrant—first from his provincial home in Cebu to the Philippines’ capital of Manila, then to Aotearoa—the artist discovers the concept of food sovereignty and finally finds his solace in returning to the soil, the land, and transforming his front yard into a thriving vegetable garden. Using discarded materials from construction, he fashions an urban farm that builds both community and self-love. He learns what the soil, plants, and seasons teach him as he grows food to nourish himself, and in doing so remembers the wisdom of his rural childhood, forgotten in the colonial whitewashing of third-world aspirations. He marries his past and present, the devastation wreaked by market forces and the regenerative influence of nature, the cultures of the Philippines and New Zealand, to engineer paradise—his utopia built within the cracks.