Zina Swanson
50 years ago we had some extremely peculiar notions about plants

The Spinoff


The Swimmers author Chloe Lane interviews Zina Swanson, whose paintings are inspired by old and outlandish books about botany.



December 1990, my family and I stayed with my aunty and uncle in the Christchurch suburb of Mount Pleasant. I remember the summer mostly hazily – picnics, swims, long hot days – though I also have specific memories. Buying a new sleeping bag; Batman-themed gifts including a torch with “bat signal” accessory; the volume of prickly Onehunga weed on my aunty and uncle’s lawn. It was impossible to take a step on that grass without my young, soft feet getting hooked by a fistful of prickles.


Earlier this year when my family relocated to Christchurch, we visited my aunty and uncle who live at the same address but – post-2011 earthquake – in a different house. Entering the new house felt a bit like visiting the old house in a dream – familiar but destabilising. My son immediately wanted to play on the lawn, and before I could retrieve his shoes from the entranceway, he stepped off the deck and onto the grass. As he did, I flinched. Though three decades had passed and the Onehunga weed was long gone, I had a muscle memory of being repelled by that surface – of the small pain I had experienced the summer I was eight. Unawares, I had created my own little personal history with this patch of grass.



To read more, head over to The Spinoff

November 23, 2020
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