Body and place: nurturing kinship through time

Body and place: nurturing kinship through time
Ligia Oliveira
If the quality of our relationships defines the quality of our lives, how can we regenerate our bond to nature through our practices?

Lígia Oliveira
Vila Real de Santo António, Portugal
Team members
Ligia Oliveira
Field of work
Design, Urban planning, Ecology, Visual Art, Research
Project category
Raising awareness
Project submitted

I grew up near the tranquillity of the Ria Formosa natural park in southern Portugal, which have inspired me to cultivate kinship with nature, and particularly, with the sea. A significant part of my life and work derives from those observations and experiences, with community and nature: playing and observing water, fish, crabs, molluscs, tides, waves, plants, sand dunes. Nature’s constant transformation: emotions of awe, joy, tranquillity; feeling playful, security, belonging and connection, and sensing that in others as well. Being aware and inquire. The connection between these and urbanity, and how external natural landscapes relate to inner emotional landscapes has been a focus of my professional practice from the moment I gained insight on the severity of the climate crisis - as well as a reflexive space on how we can shape an incredible future, including changing the narratives of ourselves and of our professions.

I studied Product Design at ESAD Matosinhos and at the University of Antwerp, and earned a PhD in Public Space and Urban Regeneration from the University of Barcelona. Since the beginning of my career, I have kept a balance between disciplines and scales: writing, visual arts, research and design; thinking and doing, as I see knowledge processes as embodied practices. My work has been published in peer-reviewed papers, books (including one I co-edited), magazines, newspapers; and has appeared in public spaces, formal and informal exhibition spaces and projects mostly across Europe, including as part of the Venice Architecture Biennale. I was awarded the 3rd prize in Urban Furniture by the Antwerp City Council and Havenhuis (co-author) and the 2nd prize in Illustration by the Matosinhos City Council. I was a researcher at the University of Barcelona and professor at the University of Porto. Furthermore, I am a member of the Design+Posthumanism Network and of Rise Up for the Ocean.

Within the cultural realm, integrating the architectural, design and artistic disciplines, the approach to the climate crisis has mostly been directed to solving the material aspects of it, through technology and design, information and adaptation. I argue that an indispensable shift lies in grasping the symbolic potential of our fields in societal change, and recovering our disciplines’ role in fostering kinship with nature: regenerating the relationship between humans and nature, at its core, is what allows sustaining long-lasting life.

This relational framework replaces the extractive, divisive, power structure that has been the base of western doings with kinship: sedimenting the interconnection among our species, more than humans and the planetary ecosystem, while cultivating this bond through our professional practices. This is done by being aware and understanding our body, by inhabiting it, fully, in its senses, sentiments and emotions. As mammals, these are key in our relationships with others: informing on emotional and physical contexts, belief systems, and influencing how we make decisions. This embodiment needs to occur in relation to community and place: by seeing patterns of behaviour, wider timeframes than those of our desks; observing, interacting, committing and caring; seeing the sacred in the mundane. I define place not only as physical, but including an ecosystem of beings and their relationships.

I’ve been researching on this framework since 2019, through my interdisciplinary practice. From then, I’ve had a few exhibitions and contributed with my writings to projects, including as part of this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale. Parallel to this, I’ve been slowly putting together a book that reflects and embodies these relationships to places, natural and urban. My aim is to finish and publish it as part of my LINA fellowship, and to share my knowledge and praxis; to nurture collaborations, and to co-create positive outcomes for all.