Posted in Quadra Medicinale, Woodward Avenue by gvd on March 28, 2011

When New York City bloomed

Know your roots

A photographic project about urban edible weeds



Posted in Woodward Avenue by gvd on May 30, 2010

Woodward Avenue – pictures

Posted in Woodward Avenue by gvd on May 30, 2010


Posted in Woodward Avenue by gvd on May 24, 2010

An article by Mark Stryker regarding the exhibition ‘Woodward Avenue’:

‘Contemporary art museum exhibit uses plants to tell Detroit’s story’

Woodward Avenue -text by Lorry Swerts – Detroit

Posted in Woodward Avenue by gvd on April 28, 2010

Dear ladies and gentlemen

I am pleased to be here and to introduce you to the work of my friend, Jef Geys. Jef and I are quite different – he’s an artist, I’m a physician. In spite of that, we are both intrigued by the secrets of what we call life and are both eager to find ways to improve life, each within our own discipline.

Jef’s concern about life and about what is profoundly human is reflected in the art he creates. His art counts as a kind though urgent invitation not only to look at it from a certain distance, but to really participate in it. By his art Jef invites the spectator to look for answers to the question of how to improve life.

For the Biennale in Venice last year Jef presented an entirely new project, entitled the “Quadra Medicinale”. The Quadra Medicinale was, first of all, the story of the abundance of plants that grow in the streets of large cities. Although these plants are often called ‘weeds’, many of them are very edible or even medicinal. In addition, Quadra Medicinale was also the expression of Jef’s commitment about the various social issues facing today’s cities.

In the Woodward Avenue project, which is a variant of “Quadra Medicinale”, Jef incorporates an even broader range of scientific disciplines into his art. For this project, he asked Ina Vandebroek, an ethnomedical research specialist, to present a film and a workshop about traditional healers in the Amazon region of Bolivia.  For Jef the continuation of the dialogue between physicians and traditional healers is important to develop healthcare that is both effective and culturally acceptable.

Jef has his own aesthetic methods, I have mine. We respect one another and we work together, whenever possible.

thank you for your attention

Lorry Swerts


Posted in Woodward Avenue by gvd on February 23, 2010

Hi Ina,

I understand that you do not want ‘new age hippies’. I have spoken
with an eccentric African-American Herbalist/Spiritualist who I think would work well for your  needs and I have spoken very briefly with an Mexican woman who runs a shop in the city. I need to know, would you like them to partake in a panel discussion or a more “hands-on” workshop. Would they be speaking in front of a crowd or would they be dealing with people one-on-one.
I am not so well versed on the exhibition so I am not certain what the “Bolivia films” are.


Hi Ben,

I would like to hold a private workshop, which means (hopefully at least 4) healers and myself. The idea is to exchange experiences related to traditional healing. Jef, correct me if I am wrong, but I see this as a workshop “by invitation only”, not open to the general public. The idea would be to have a small group of people (none of them new-age hippies) and all people working as healers in the community, or perhaps also some community members who are (or have been) patients of these healers, to hold a discussion about the role and importance of traditional healing today in Detroit.

The reason why I want to keep the workshop “private” is three-fold: (1) this is not a promotional stunt (I don’t want press hanging around and scare people); (2) if the event is open it might not create an atmosphere open enough to talk about traditional healing and community health. (I would like to point again to the NYTimes article that emphasized that a lot of healers are “working in the shadows”). Let’s not forget that many healers in urban areas assist community members without legal status. I want the healers to feel safe to talk; (3) popular action series on TV such as “CSI” recently depicted a botánica shop as “a place of witchcraft”. This shows that there still exists a lot of prejudice towards traditional healing.

The Bolivia movies that will be on display in the Detroit exhibition are about my work with traditional healers in the Amazon region in Bolivia. I will be moderating the workshops and would like to start by showing these movies and explaining my work (which is focused on improving community health and training medical students and doctors to become more culturally sensitive) and then ask the healers to talk about their own practice. Ideally, if we have at least 4 healers and some community members/patients, there could be some kind of discussion among them.

What do you think?

Kind wishes,


mail from Japan

Posted in Woodward Avenue by gvd on February 14, 2010

Hello Ina-san,

I was so impressed with you on the Nova podcast. I didn’t know “ethnobotany” existed!  I am from NYC but live in Tsu, Mie prefecture, Japan, in the countryside.  Two years ago, I saw an old woman picking something on the bank of a river. She called it “tsukushi,” which my dictionary translates as “a spore shoot of the field horsetail.” I picked it and cooked it for my Japanese wife, who hadn’t eaten it since her grandmother cooked it for her 45 years ago.  Of course, she was very impressed.
People are so seasonal here. In February, “nanohana,” or “rape blossoms” are eaten.  Spring shoots are popular. And all manner of seaweed —is there a field of marine ethnobotany? I can buy fresh kelp at the local market for a dollar.  I don’t know, but I guess it’s good for you.   If you ever come to Japan, I’d be so pleased to help interpret for you, or even to show you where to find salsa dancing in Osaka. (I tried, but 2 left feet – my secret passion is Irish fiddle).

All the best, happy hunting,