by Ruchama Noorda

Tumulus is an enclosed garden installation that functions as a natural ruin, compost heap, soil sculpture, seed bed, earth work, dyeing source, and dunghill. Over the course of several seasons from June 2019 onwards, artist Ruchama Noorda transforms the patch of greenery next to our Sluisdeurenloods into a living sculpture and performance site.


Vegetative State @Tumulus - Ruchama Noorda

Tumulus is a cyclical weed-woad restoration project in several parts: 

  1. Vegetative State
    June - mid-July 2019
  2. Growth Imperative
    mid-July - October, with a dedication ceremony on September 13, 2019
  3. Dormant Lot
    November 2019 - February 2020
  4. Healing Property
    March - August 2020
  5. Blue Monday
    with a celebration of the autumnal equinox, September 21st, 2020

The Tumulus lot is alive with weeds and herbs seeded by the wind or deliberately planted.The woad (lsatis tinctoria) which was planted last year has now (August 2020) been partially harvested and used to make woad dye and root-leaf-and-seed medications. On September 21st, 2020 (Autumnal Equinox/Blue Monday) Noorda will perform a ceremony using extracts from the planted woad.

Woad Dye

In ancient times, woad was an important source of blue dye and was cultivated throughout Europe for that purpose. It was eventually replaced by the more colourfast Indigo (Indigofera tinctoria) until  the early 20th century when synthetic blue dyes were developed that replaced both woad and Indigofera tinctoria. Woad leaves react to rubbing and crushing by producing a bitter tasting liquid that serves as a natural defense. This liquid fermented in stale urine for several weeks turns into blue woad pigment that floats on the service of the urine vat. Textile soaked in this substance turns blue once it is exposed to oxygen and sunlight.

⚕️Woad Medicine

Woad is a member of the Brassicaceae (crucifer) family: the leaves are bitter and considered astringent. Woad has been used in traditional European and Chinese medicine for centuries. It is taken internally to treat a wide range of disorders including meningitis, mumps and influenza. It can also be applied externally in a poultice to the area surrounding the spleen. Recently woad has been found to be a source of diindolylmethane (DIM). Diindolylmethane is a compound found in cruciferous vegetables. In laboratory experiments with animals it has been found to reduce cancers and inflammation. Promising research into DIM's potential as a positive agent in the healing and prevention of breast and prostrate cancers linked to oestrogen metabolism is currently under way.

Ornamental Hermitage

In late July and early August 2020 an ornamental hermitage built from compacted earth-bags and discarded home improvement detritus (collected on the streets during the pandemic) was constructed at the centre of the Tumulus, slightly sunk into the earth. The public is invited to the opening ceremony on Monday, 21st September 20:00.

This one-person hide-out and end times shelter is fronted by a door with a two-way peephole. Here in the city centre, visitors are invited to step back, turn in, turn off and savour solitary time. The Tumulus hut is a place of contemplation, introspection and retreat: an opportunity for a re-set.

Pouches containing a selection of the healing herbs grown on the Tumulus mound will be hung at the entrance and are available for use. Visitors can choose a mix suited to their immediate needs: to counter sadness & loneliness, to channel rage and anger,  to listen to their inner voices or to realize their inner wishes, to sink into the ground or to tune out into silence.

The tumulus hut is a place to pause, turn inward, and prepare for what is coming.

Mediamatic Biotoop, Dijkspark 6, Amsterdam
The installation is located at the front of the Sluisdeurenloods.