by Guido Borgers

Lioba Keuck, born 1983,  is a German photographer who studied Fine Arts and Photography in Münster and Dortmund, Germany.  In 2010 she came to Lisbon to enroll at FBAUL (Faculdade de Belas Artes Universidade Lisboa).

During her stay in Portugal she was touched by Urban Gardens in the city´s periphery. The challenging lifestyle of the gardeners and their daily self-sufficient struggle caught her attention, she found her protagonists and went along with them for two years.

COUVE E CORAGEM has won several awards and was exhibited internationally.

Urban areas and their residents are facing big challenges in these days. Today for the first time in history the majority of the world‘s inhabitants now live in urban environments. But what happens if the structures providing sufficient food, housing, health and labour for all those people fail?

Lisbon´s urban farmers respond directly to their situation. They tell a simple, yet powerful  story from the margins.

The land between their social housing quarters is unused public space. Effectively a wasteland it is considered private due to the spontaneous annexation and agricultural reappropriation by the people.

This wasteland becomes the only refuge in which they trust and where they can directly profit from their abilities. On those underused territories the effects of urban pauperization are counteracted by supplying a additional socioeconomic surplus and creating self-made jobs for the families occupying them. And eventually the latter achieve greater physical and mental well being.

COUVE E CORAGEM depicts crucial aspects of the human being of our time: globalisation, migration from the countryside and the backlash of historic dependencies as well as it contemplates the deeper need for self-fulfllment in everyday existence.

The photographer´s approach is basically journalistic, but she crosses it with different artistic strategies. Her main narrative thread is told documentary and focusses on her protagonists whom she follows through the process of gardening from planting to harvesting and from cultivation to bulldozing of the land.

Direct portraits break this format and show the peasant´s identity, dignity and pride. Further there are pictures of fences taken by night: boundaries constructed from waste material extracted by the flash from the usual manner of reading. Here the conditions of these gardens can be seen clearly: they are marginal, fragile and precarious. And tomorrow they could easily be destroyed. But yet strong enough to give those farmers their "own“ space.

Lioba Keuck´s publication emphasises the actual significance of her story by coming along as a precious journal. Inward original quotes give the farmers a voice to describe the reality that lies within their "hortas“.

Not only in times of crisis we better listen carefully.