Introducing our latest book Dark Mountain: Issue 25!

We are thrilled to announce the publication of our twenty-fifth book, available now from our online shop. Our Spring 2024 issue is a hardback anthology of non-fiction, fiction, poetry, interviews and artwork from around the world, inspired by the struggle for land rights, and by the living land itself. Over the next few weeks we'll be sharing some excerpts from the book to give you a sense of its depth and richness. Today we bring you the editorial and cover artwork by David McGlynn.

Editorial: the Living Land

Last year, Global Witness reported that 1,910 land defenders were murdered in the past decade, the equivalent of one person every other day. The vast majority of these killings occurred in Latin America, and over a third of the victims were Indigenous – despite the fact that Indigenous people comprise only 5% of the world’s population.

What they gave their lives for – ‘land’ – seems such a simple word, often used with no thought to its meaning. Land is the ground beneath our feet, but it is so much more than that, and to act in its defence is to fight for many things: for the right to access food and water; for the existence of other beings, of rivers, mountains, lakes and trees; for the right to build a home, or to live without one; for the right to walk and sleep where you please; for connection and imagination; to resist invasion. 

In an age of techno-utopian visions of artificial intelligence and virtual realities, as billionaires launch rockets to seek a future in the stars, we are often encouraged to think of land as anachronistic, dirty, irrelevant to our civilised needs. But this is delusional. Land is everything.

Land defenders know this. It is why, on capitalism’s current frontiers, they are being murdered. From countries in which land expropriation is at its most nakedly violent, we can retrace the extractive threads back to colonialism’s birthplaces, where the struggles look different but are ultimately connected. 

In the UK, where we have edited this book, the theft was carried out so long ago that we have forgotten what we have lost. The land around us is gated and fenced, off limits to all but a few. The past couple of years have brought this loss into sharp focus, after a millionaire landowner successfully overturned the right to ‘wild’ camp on Dartmoor, the only place in England with a recognised right to do so. The response was outraged and inventive. Organisations like Right to Roam and The Stars are for Everyone organised protests and mass trespasses, and summoned Old Crockern, guardian spirit of the moor, to stalk the land once again and bring justice to the greedy. 

Inflected by the mythical, this upsurge of grassroots activism draws on deep sources: from medieval peasant uprisings against the enclosures of common land, and the struggles of Diggers and Levellers during the English Civil War, to the resistance of Scottish crofters to the Highlands Clearances. It is an echo, or continuation, of the Kinder Scout trespass of 1932 – which paved the way for the UK’s first National Parks – the anti-roads protests of the 1990s, and the Occupy movement of the 2010s, a response to the predations of finance capital upon the public realm. These revolts are as different in character as a mountain from a moor, or a forest from a fen. But they spring from the same well of intuition: that the land makes us what we are. That we have never been separate from it. That despite our supposed modernity, we are the land.

The land makes us what we are. We have never been separate from it. Despite our supposed modernity, we are the land.

Dark Mountain: Issue 25 gathers voices from Cameroon to Mexico, from Portugal to Palestine, from Singapore to the Oxfordshire stockbroker-belt. Ahmad Al-Bazz and Juman Simaan walk us through the day-to-day reality of obstructed movement around the West Bank, and their practice of resisting by continuing to travel, despite the occupation. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Murairi Bakihanaye Janvier writes of true groundedness in the act of laying the bones of his ancestors in the earth. Sophia Pickles connects the story of her Ukrainian grandparents’ flight from Stalin to Russia’s current war, and her work of bearing witness to the consequences of unceasing mineral extraction. Tabitha Pope designs Tŷ Unnos, a house that can be built in a night to outwit the landlord in Wales, just as the shantytown dwellers did in Sara Pereira’s piece about a revolutionary Lisbon.

Alongside poetry, protest song runs like a river through this book: in Robin Grey’s transcriptions of ballads from 17th-century peasant revolts, in Briony Greenhill’s modern folk songs seeking dialogue between landed and landless, and in a song of grief and rage from Uganda, where tribes like the Mosopisyek face violent eviction from their lands for resource extraction. Struggle continues in the fiction of Zakiya McKenzie, who gives voice to a formerly enslaved man from Jamaica who leads an anti-colonial uprising, and in the quieter transgressions of Stuart Wrigley in England, forced to navigate barriers daily on a simple walk to work. Megan MacInnes and Maria Latumahina, respectively from Scotland and West Papua, discuss the connections between their struggles for fairer land distribution. Damian Le Bas and James McConachie write of how Britain’s nomadic cultures, from Romany Gypsies to New Age Travellers, have faced systematic persecution, while from Mexico Chris Christou illuminates the often-overlooked flip-side of migration: what happens to the communities that are left behind?

It has often been women on the frontlines of displacement and dispossession. Silvia Federici describes how the destruction of the English commons was achieved through the persecution of the peasantry as witches, and how witch hunts continue to this day on capitalism’s new frontiers. Alice Albinia reflects on how women’s stories of and from the land were nearly erased by colonisation. 

Various pieces in this book highlight Indigenous connection to land. But what about those for whom the concept of ‘indigeneity’ has difficult, even dark, undertones, or others who feel little connection to the land that they are ‘from’? What about those who live in cities, now over half the human population? Albert Woods urges us not to fetishise the countryside but, like a magpie, to find what glitters wherever we might live. Esther May Campbell’s photographs document the subversive play of children reclaiming the urban commons, while Joe Black Ardy uses found images to explore separation from nature in human-built environments. Paul Powlesland writes of his love for the neglected river on the outskirts of London where he has made a home.

Does the land belong to us, or do we belong to the land? What happens when we expand our perception beyond the human?

The language of rights can be anthropocentric, couched in terms of ‘who owns what?’ But what happens when we flip such assumptions on their heads? Does the land belong to us, or do we belong to the land? What happens when we expand our perception beyond the human? Heather Gorse describes how her life, made precarious by renting, is transformed by a prickle of hedgehogs, while for artist Madison Emond, a stream in Aotearoa New Zealand is not the subject of her work but an active collaborator. This flows from the rights of nature movement, another undercurrent of recent years, which recognises that rivers and forests, and the beings that live in them, have their own right to thrive independently of humans.

Susan Raffo’s essay explores the land’s aliveness, awareness of which – as with all Dark Mountain books – underpins everything. But the land can be unstable. Fred Warren reminds us that the ground beneath our feet can easily be swept away, and that all of our claims on it – and our illusions of control – can ultimately be dissolved, like cliffs crumbling into the sea. That the land has never been ‘ours’ at all. Whatever the ground on which you stand, we hope the words and artwork in this issue offer different ways to navigate its changes.

The Editors
Spring 2024

 

COVER IMAGE:
David McGlynn
Deershake
Digital photo collage
Deershake is a collage of satellite imagery of Earth. It speaks to the confusion of human impositions upon the natural world, and how nature casually regains its place. Man makes plans, nature prevails. We are of the earth, so the enduring question is – how best to act? The discovery of our most appropriate role seems to lay ahead of us. This piece alludes to a future possible harmonisation.

David McGlynn is an award-winning artist living in NYC and Beverly, MA. His work has been in many group and solo shows, and can be found in several collections. He has created various permanent installations, and his work has been published in many prominent periodicals and websites.

 

Dark Mountain: Issue 25

Our Spring 2024 issue is an anthology of non-fiction, fiction, poetry, interviews and artwork inspired by the struggle for land rights, and by the living land itself.

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