Jessica Zhang Combing

  • Tauira / Student
    Jessica Zhang
  • Kaiako / Lecturers
    Dr Rafik Patel, Polina Gorr

An exploration of foraging as an interactive exhibition seeks to reconnect the public with New Zealand flora within the confines of the Auckland Domain Wintergardens Temperate House. The design takes inspiration from the native bush that once existed before the picturesque landscaping. The exhibition provides a temporary 'vessel' for the ghosts of the native bush that drift amongst the wasteland of English gardens, inheriting the site again by reintroducing our native plants and weeds to overtake the picturesque constraints. By reintroducing the previously upheaved flora back into the built environment, the exhibit seeks to reintroduce knowledge that can provide alternative food sources and natural remedies during economic turmoil in present society by reimagining the idea of edible invasive weeds and common native plants. The concept of foraging would reinforce Māori ecological values without intruding on the boundaries of indigenous knowledge while effectively educating the public on alternative food sources through experimentation and collective community participation. The three central zones of the exhibit offers a controlled setting for patrons to engage with the rituals of inspecting plants carefully, weaving through the bush, tasting, smelling, and feeling the plants, which are essential to redeveloping our connections to native flora.

The towering drawers made of reclaimed wood and elm, filled with dry samples of foraged herbs and plants, enclose the plywood centrepiece of the exhibit. The pavilion alludes to traditional Chinese pharmacy structures and forms, inviting patrons to experiment with the dried plants and harvest through informative labels on their taste and medicinal properties.

Māra, 'GARDEN'
Invasive yet edible common garden weeds inhabit here, from the hardy plantain on the ground to the towering tangles of Nasturtium on the exterior trellises of The Pavilion. The layout of Māra was considered to build a sense of comfort and familiarity for patrons in their exploration of tasting and identifying common garden weeds at home.

Well-known native plants with edible qualities and invasive shrubs of New Zealand terrain are planted here to invite patrons to learn about our native flora, educate, and encourage respectful exploration within our natural environment without intruding on indigenous values.
The three components of the design offer a curated experience of foraging by encouraging knowledge-sharing within the community, independent learning, and supervised experimentation with wild edible plants. The landscaping array of native plants and weeds seeks to expand the natural environment as a reversal of urbanization by reconnecting the community to nature through foraging for food and natural remedies.