Ishtar’s International Network of Feral Gardens

April 2022 - October 2022

To become part of the network, and receive updates about upcoming events, please register using this form

Fertile microcosms are embedded within our five bodily senses, their interstices, and our memories bathed in sunlight, nourished by torrential downpours, flowering and lush. Imbricated in complex networks with the human and non-human, our bodies carry bountiful reserves of knowledge borne out of a connection with the earth. We bear imprints of the generations-long relationships that we have cultivated with the natural world. Ishtar, goddess of fertility, love, and justice, in her many forms is an expression of this ancient bond. 

This summer, as we tend to our domestic and feral gardens, we will try to explore the entanglements that our sensing bodies form with plants, mycelia, microorganisms, and the many living forms which bring us into being. In the process, we will share the myriad cultural and embodied forms of knowledge that mediate these relationships. What can seeds teach us about sovereignty? What can foraging teach us about living and healing within extractive landscapes? How can the scent of roses evoke memories of migration and the emancipated spatial geographies of public gardens? Join us this summer as we feel our way through these questions. 

Ishtar’s International Network of Feral Gardens is a playful, experimental, food sovereignty initiative dedicated to the cultivation of feral gardens with an international network of artists, cultural workers, botanists and food activists. This year, we will be offering stipends of $150 to 25 members of the network to subsidize the cost of gardening supplies. We will also be coordinating with local seed banks to assist participants in sourcing seeds. On May 14, the eve of the Milk Moon, we will be coming together for a planting event and seedling exchange. Over the summer months, we will be hosting and collaborating on a series of events and workshops that bring network participants together around sensing, flourishing and planting. 

DISPATCHES 003 – Fading Blossoms 

Why is it that we shy away from fading blossoms? Why do we turn from the second half of the life of cut flowers, seeing their fading as an affront to our sensibilities? Can we imagine an aesthetic framework that would allow for flowers to fade before our eyes, taking whatever shape and form they must as they transform? […]

– Lata Mani, from The Tree and I, in “The Integral Nature of Things: Critical Reflections on the Present.” London: Routledge, 2013


DISPATCHES 002 – The tree and I 

Does the tree’s significance lie in how much fruit it yields? In the number of birds and insects it hosts? In the quantity of carbon dioxide it converts to oxygen? In how many humans and animals seek out the cool of its shade? All of the above? But none of this even begins to grasp the place of the tree in my life (not to mention in the lives of others), the pleasure I derive from its presence, its wordless companionship? Do these facts bear on its significance? And there is a prior question: does the tree’s value lie in what it enables, in its function and contribution? Or is the matter of its significance independent of the benefits it is seen to provide? Put another way, are significance and meaning intrinsic to the tree’s existence?

– Lata Mani, from The Tree and I, in “The Integral Nature of Things: Critical Reflections on the Present.” London: Routledge, 2013


DISPATCHES 001 – Trip to the Garden

We are overjoyed to welcome so many of you back to Ishtar’s Network of Feral Gardens this second cycle and to meet so many new members. With the spring, Ishtar once again rises from the underworld and reminds us of the enduring persistence and interconnectedness of life, amidst the disorientation of grief and loss. In the first year of the network, Ishtar’s presence helped many of us navigate the isolation of the first lockdown, and more intimately connect with these cycles of growth and hibernation.  Since then, we’ve all ridden waves of discombobulation and confusion, grappling with the gravity of the moment with our thinking minds. Invoking Ishtar’s wisdom, rather than trying to overcome these feelings we are opening up our other senses and the embodied knowledge that we carry borne out of our entanglements with the natural world.


Upcoming Events

Transplant Seeing: A Exploratory Walk with Vince Rozario
Following Jumana Manna’s Foragers (2022)
Saturday Sept 24, 5:15pm
Introductory Remarks: 5:15- 6:00 pm
Meet at TIFF Bell Lightbox Lobby at 6:00 for walk

On a burning planet, foraging and maintaining relationships of reciprocity with neighbours, friends, flora, fungi, and bacteria may be our only way through. Nurturing kinship with “invasive” plants growing in degraded lands, vacant lots and unexpected alleyways offers important lessons toward integrating the natural world in “unnatural” settings.

As part of Ishtar’s Network of Feral Gardens this year, SAVAC commissioned Meech Boakye and Christina Kingsbury’s “Transplant Field Guide”. This text provides insight on a number of species deemed “invasive” across Turtle Island, and provides alternative modes of knowing, understanding, and being in relation to them.

Guided by Boakye and Kingsbury’s Field Guide, we will consider what forms of life exist in spaces which we otherwise view as barren, form relationships with them, learn from them, and reciprocate with gratitude and curiosity.

In collaboration with TPFF 


Online Programming 

phullo, phallo, phirse: grow, flower, and feast again

The scent of a rose is more than the sum of its parts, a fleeting sensation that nevertheless lingers in the deep recesses of memory. Rose gardens, so lovingly tended by our mothers, aunts and grandmothers, bear traces of a generations-long entanglement with a bounty of fragrances, flavours, medicines and colourful beauty. Cultivated in public gardens from Marrakech to Baghdad to Damascus, Lahore, Delhi, Dhaka and beyond, roses also evoke ties to myriad histories, places, and communities.

phullo, phallo, phirse is a storytelling project featuring four diasporic women sharing the ways in which they tend to their beloved rose bushes, and how roses tint their way of seeing the world. Throughout the month of August, follow the QR code below, or follow us on Instagram (@savac_)  to experience these stories, and use the hashtag #phullophallo to share your own encounter with a special rose or rose garden.

This project is presented in collaboration with the SAVAC (South Asian Visual Arts Centre) as part of their playful and experimental food sovereignty initiative Ishtar’s Network of Feral Gardens. This series partners with Waard Ward Collective’s Community Rose Garden Project, part of I am land that speaks, an exhibition curated by Maya Wilson-Sanchez as part of ArtWorxTO’s Year of Public Art.

Past Events 

Fresh Indigo Leaf Dyeing Workshop with Hitoko Okada
Saturday, July 30 at 1:30 pm

Neighbour to Neighbour Hamilton Community Food Centre

Join fibre artist and Ishtar Network member Hitoko Okada this Saturday, July 20 at 1:30 pm for a fresh leaf indigo dyeing workshop at Neighbour to Neighbour Hamilton Community Food Centre. Hitoko will share her artistic practice which encompasses the historical, relational and cultural significance of Japanese indigo. This workshop aims to facilitate connections between plants, craft and community. Participants will share in making a communal fresh leaf indigo dye bath, to take home a silk scarf they have dyed. Optional shibori, itajime and tataki-zome applications will be demonstrated for resist pattern making. The workshop is intergenerational and free. Spaces are limited.

To reserve space: Contact Caitlin at 905-574-1334 ext. 304 or email:

Hitoko Okada is an interdisciplinary artist, curator, storyteller and community arts facilitator. Her fibre art and curatorial practice explore the politics of fashion, Japanese heritage textile folk crafts, gendered and racialized garment labour from personal, historical, critical, and anti-capitalist perspectives. She engages ancient cultural practices of Japanese indigo and kakiskibu dyeing, kami-ito thread-making, and weaving shifu to connect to ancestral knowledge to deepen relationship to cloth, plant kin, soil, healing and spirit through a diasporic lens. Her work has been exhibited in various galleries and events across Canada including Vancouver, Toronto, Hamilton and Burlington. She is the recipient of multiple grants and awards including Ontario Arts Council, Canada Council of the Arts and City of Hamilton Arts Awards. Okada is an organizer, founder and current steering committee member of the Art Installers Alliance of Ontario- an emergent grassroots organization of, by, and for precariously employed art installers to resource, advocate and build community to create a more secure and humanizing arts sector for them. She currently lives and works in Hamilton, Canada on the traditional territory of the Huron-Wendat, Anishinaabe, Mississaugas of the Credit, and Haudenosaunee Confederacy, protected by the Dish with One Spoon covenant.


Walking Entanglements: Exploring Transplant Species with Alize Zorlutuna
Accompanied by Transplant Field Guide by Meech Boakye and Christina Kingsbury
Thursday, July 21, 6-8 pm
Toronto West Railpath (Meet in front of MOCA)

On Thursday, July 21 from 6-8 PM join SAVAC and interdisciplinary artist Alize Zorlutuna for a walk along the Toronto West Railpath that reimagines the interdependence of human and plant life. We will be meeting in front of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA).

On a burning planet, maintaining relationships of reciprocity with neighbours, friends, flora, fungi, and bacteria may be our only way through. Nurturing kinship with “invasive” plants growing in degraded lands, vacant lots and unexpected alleyways offers important lessons toward imagining queer and anti-capitalist living.

Guided by a text created by artists Meech Boakye and Christina Kingsbury, we will consider what forms of life exist in spaces which we otherwise view as barren, form relationships with them, learn from them, and reciprocate with gratitude and curiosity.

“Alienation is a two-faced thing: it hurts, and the freedom it gives is not
on our terms, but there is also the germ
of liberation—we are offered the chance
to relinquish any investment in a self-
destructive society. The pain felt from
our alienation can’t be alleviated by a
return to an ethereal state of nature,
but has to be embraced, and retooled.”

And perhaps this is exactly where we will meet the plants.


You can download and print Transplant Field Guide ~~here~~


Launch Event – Ishtar Planting Day 2022
Sunday, May 15, 1-4pm
Chinatown Centre Courtyard (222 Spadina Ave)

On the eve of the Milk Moon, join SAVAC and the stewards of the Chinatown Anti-Displacement Garden for the launch of Ishtar’s Network of Feral Gardens. We will be planting the garden outside the Chinatown Centre, and exchanging seedlings  as an exercise in placemaking, reciprocity and collective sovereignty. You are encouraged to bring any seedlings, rooted cuttings or plants that you may want to donate to the garden and tools (shovels, spades, rakes) to plant with. Please bring direct-sow seeds and extra seedlings if you have them to exchange with other network members. If you’re unable to be with us physically, please join us in spirit by sowing your own garden.

This Chinatown Anti-Displacement Garden was created as a community gathering space in 2019 to resist rapid gentrification and the closure of local businesses and community spaces in the area. This partnership deepens our collaboration with various Chinatown anti-gentrification initiatives, including the garden, since 2019. The act of tending to a garden together is one of the core tenets of Ishtar’s Network of Feral Gardens. Let’s immerse our bodies into the earth, sinking our hands into the soil, embedding deep roots into untapped aquifers, bringing forth abundance from what may have lain dormant and neglected. See you on the Milk Moon!

The futures of space will be community gardens a commitment to show up and take care of life that will reflect that care right back to you.

  Hannia Cheng, The Futures of Space (2021)

Suite 450
401 Richmond St. W.
Toronto, ON M5V 3A8

1 (416) 542-1661

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exhibitions, and events at SAVAC.