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Grazing on Graves

Holding fresh flowers, a friend enters a cemetery to visit her mother’s grave. She was soon approached by the groundskeeper who advised that it was best not to lay fresh flowers as kangaroos graze on them. This occurrence set the impetus for Grazing on Graves.

Elly Bradfield, 13.09.17, Kangaroos graze in a cemetery at Cunnamulla in western Queensland, photo, accessed, 1.09.20.

These fine ceramic objects were created in direct response to the above narrative and marked a new research direction that explores local cemeteries and their biodiversity. These built environments mirror the layers and patterns of migration of their urban counterparts and in-turn influence their ecosystems. The cemetery gives animals a foothold into a heavily urbanized area. The type of wild life depends on the management plan and the cultural riches informed by custom and ritual.

An example of this is a study by Stanley Gehrt of Ohio State University, where he GPS tracked the ways coyotes have adapted to urban areas of Chicago. With regards to cemeteries, Gehrt found that Korean and Caribbean people sometimes leave small dishes and chicken carcasses as offering to the dead. The data tracking showed that one coyote assumed the offerings were for her. ‘She gets Korean food at least once a week’, Gehrt says. That’s the cultural influence that’s unique to cemeteries. i

i City Cemetery is Alive with Shocking Number of Bats, Spiders by Joshua Rapp Learn, National Geographic, pub July 12, 2016