SFER IK’s En-chanted Garden transforms the Mayan jungle into a living work of art

All About Plants

SFER IK’s En-chanted Garden transforms the Mayan jungle into a living work of art

The En-chanted Garden is the newest addition to SFER IK’s open-air museum. (Courtsey SFER IK Museion)

In the depths of the Mayan jungle lies a garden, where the sunlight peaks through the ceiba tree branches to illuminate the grounds of a new multi-use space where art, nature, and knowledge intertwine as a portal to ancestral memory. Created by Colombian artist and shaman Cristina Ochoa, in collaboration with Roth Architecture, and curated by Marcello Dantas, the En-chanted Garden is an interactive living work of art, formalizing the jungle as a biodiversity reserve, a vegetable pharmacy, a school, and a space for the exchange of knowledge and the cosmogony of the native people in rhythms with nature.

The En-chanted Garden, or Jardin En-cantado, is SFER IK Museion’s latest commission for its open-air museum in Tulum, Mexico, housed within the creative complex’s new development AZULIK Basin, as a home to diverse species and multidisciplinary communities. It “invites visitors to learn not only about botany and herbalism, but also about the traditions of the Mayan and Mesoamerican cultures,” SFER IK founder Eduardo Roth told AN. “The garden is therefore both a playful and didactic space, a place for reconnection and meditation.”

organic-shaped sculptures in water feature are part of the En-chanted Garden
A large mirror of water greets visitors into the garden. (Courtesy SFER IK Museion)

The garden first appears through the museum’s “portal,” leading visitors to the jungle’s interior where a large mirror of water is sited. There, white, organic-shaped sculptures occupy the water feature. The garden is demarcated by the Mayan ceiba in four directions, with similar organic structures placed throughout the verdant landscape. To the right, a medicinal spiral is on view, followed to the left by a warehouse and a germinator. In the garden’s northern direction lies a table of knowledge, and to its west, a composting area is available to the garden. In the future, the garden will also house a seed bank, a plant gene reserve, and a greenhouse.

information cards display info about the plants
The herbal codex has information cards scattered throughout the garden to identify species and provide cultural and medicinal information. (Courtesy SFER IK Museion)

When walking along the garden, almost 500 plant species are growing. These vegetation-driven paths serve as a journey through ancestral memory. Alongside the plants is a herbal codex in the form of information cards that offer cultural and medicinal information provided by Mayan priests and traditional doctors. The information cards also include QR codes, revealing the connection between the native experts and the plants. With the vast ecology available as a tool for knowledge, workshops and ceremonies will be hosted for visitors to learn about plants and their significance.

The En-chanted Garden is in constant dialogue with its surroundings. Beyond the physical garden, the project serves as a guide to behave within nature, with conscious intentions front and center when designing the project. “In the manifesto I tried to protect and respect the jungle as a being with rights,” Ochoa said. “Asking for permission to enter into the territory and to protect the living beings in the jungle, that’s an ecofeminist statement, to make conscience about our human track on the earth.”

The vision of celebrating ancestral practices is evident even with the project’s name, with En-chanted Garden coming “from the ritual to chant to the plants, and to communicate with them, and other beings that live in the jungle,” Ochoa explained.

a guided tour of the En-chanted Garden
Guided tours are available for visitors to explore the species inhabiting the garden. (Courtesy SFER IK Museion)

Ochoa’s intuitive outlook on the relationship with nature and ancestral knowledge, her ten-year exploration of pharmacy and traditional herbology, and her previous Pharmakon exhibit in SFER IK as one of AZULIK’s first artists in residence, made her the perfect candidate to take on the ambitious garden project. “We already had a true interest in developing mind enhancing practices and connection with ancestral knowledge, she gave a physical form to this quest,” Dantas said. “She continually challenges the possibilities of her practice and extends the reach of the institution.”

The garden will be available for future artists in residence of the SFER IK Museion, as well as visitors and members of the community to coexist with nature. “It is a great pride that the first living artwork is precisely a garden of ancestral knowledge, a witness of the utmost importance of the plant and animal kingdoms in our way of life,” Roth told AN. “Our goal is to continue on this path of safeguarding the legacy of the native peoples and their traditions, of incorporating technological language and AI in our work, as long as it is with true meaning. Without meaning and love nothing can truly exist.”