18th Annual Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest Natural World
Wild Sagebrush in the times of Covid-19

Artemisia afra or wilde als is a medicinal plant indigenous to Africa. The plant is used to treat respiratory illness and corona viruses. The direct translation for 'wilde als' is 'wild sagebrush'. South Africans believe in the power of this magical medicinal plant. It is thus known in Africa and Madagascar as a powerful Covid-19 organic. An essential oil is distilled via steam using the twigs and blossoms. In this photographs my husband is inhaling the plants aromas during steaming. The hands gloved by tight surgical synthetic nitrile gloves make the presence of a human body appear quite disembodied from an organic distillation process, and thus also from what is perceived as the wild or 'natural' plant life. In the Anthropocene Age (the age where humans have made a destructive impact on ecosystems) and even more so comprehended in the times of Covid-19, humans may attempt to reconnect with nature from which we have become so far removed from. However, our attempts to becoming organic or entering the wild are always overshadowed by the distance between humans and nature in the Anthropocenic Age. I have handpicked Artemisia Afra with my friend Pauline Gutter on her farm in the Free State, South Africa. We first search for Artemisia bushes. This handpicking we have done in the growth season.I have prepared the distillation at night in a ritualistic manner. I have asked my husband to inhale the steam. I have placed a lamp on the left side of the distillation.

Photo Detail
Date Taken: 11.2020
Date Uploaded: 11.2020
Photo Location: Bloemfontein, South Africa
Camera: Canon EOS 600D
Copyright: © Janine Allen-Spies