garden says breathe

by al evangelista

garden says breathe
explores queer generational diaspora through home garden videos, archival material, and movement. My home garden has queer diasporic relations. How and when do I see these relations and when do others? I want to put up a pride flag in my garden but I am a queer brown body in the rural Midwest.¹ This screendance asks: can my garden be my queer flag? How can my queer garden be in conversation with gardens from diaspora? Garden video footage is paired with World War II aftermath photos, creating connection across time, change, cycles, and growth.² The photos highlight exterior shots of Manila pre- and post-World War II creating conversation with Filipinx-Amerian queer ecological history.³

garden says breathe

I want my garden to say a queer man lives here.

My Filipino mother will be so proud of the yam vines. These yams feed guests. Feeding is how we show our love.⁴ These yams transform into ube cake, ube cookies, ube ice cream. They are a lot. And they are amazing.

My pride flag is my lily pad pond. It’s an invasive species in the Philippines. In the river near where my parents grew up, lily pads run rampant. Lily pads are my queer flag not just because they are rhizomatic but because the newer leaves take in the air and the older leaves expel the air.⁵ Environmentalist and botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer (Citizen Potawatami Nation) writes, “The young and the old are linked in one long breath, an inhalation that calls for reciprocal exhalation, nourishing the common root from which they both arose.”⁶ Instead of representing solely sexual preferences through color, my lily pad pond as flag also represents generations. Queer ancestors breathing with me underneath the surface.

As the seasons change and it starts to snow in the Midwest, my garden sleeps. The cold frost places a temporary stay. We need to rest.⁷

Except for the plants I brought inside. The clippings I’ve taken to make more plants keep the dances going. These plants slide into my queer kins’ homes. My garden breathes with my chosen family and our ancestors breathe back.

¹ Manalansan IV, Martin F, Chantal Nadeau, Richard T Rodríguez, and Siobhan B Somerville. 2014. Queering
     the middle: Race, region, and a queer Midwest. Duke University Press.
² [World War II Damage in Manila]. 1940. University of Michigan Library. Special Collections Library.
³ Domingo, Luis Zuriel. 2022. “[OPINION] On the lack of public historians and intellectual spaces.” Rappler,
⁴ Orquiza, René Alexander. 2013. “8. Lechon with Heinz, Lea & Perrins with Adobo.” In Eating Asian America,
     177-185. New York University Press.
⁵ Allen, Jafari S. 2016. “Black/queer rhizomatics.” In No Tea, No Shade, 27-47. Duke University Press.
⁶ Kimmerer, Robin Wall. 2013. Braiding sweetgrass: Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the teachings
     of plants
. Milkweed Editions. 103.
⁷ Edidi, Lady Dane Figueroa. 2021. “Reflective Meditation with Lady Dane” In “#stayFRESHatHOME.” Vimeo.



Al Evangelista is an Assistant Professor of Dance at Oberlin College and Conservatory. Al is an interdisciplinary artist whose creative process engages with social justice, queer Filipinx-American diaspora, and performance studies. His research identifies ways in which theatre and dance provoke and create change.