Wool March

Image: sheep await for doning of their activist wool blankets, TextielMuseum, Tilburg 2022. text on this blanket: turn the heating off and wear a sweater! (in Dutch)

Wool March is a community transhumance walk with sheep, humans and lands. It is curated by Cynthia Hathaway to promote wool, regenerative practices, co-working relations between human and non-human, and the commons.

Transhumance is the act of walking with animals to pasture by shepherds and is an important way of maintaining biodiversity of soils and micro organisms. Transhumance has been done for centuries, and is endangered in many countries. This walk, Wool March, is bringing it back to experience how we with animals can create fertility rather than scarcity whilst living together on the planet.

Wool is a sustainable material but is de-valued the moment it is grown on the back of a sheep. If we favor only one part of an animal, we dishonor it’s capacities as more than just meat producers. Sheep provide milk, wool, and landscape expertise when partnered with transhumance practices. From a textile perspective, when we favor cottons and polyesters, we are overlooking wool’s unbeatable qualities. It is renewable, biodegradable, recyclable, fire retardant, retains heat and repeals moisture, and has many applications for garment, building and agriculture. 100% wool sweaters last for generations, and do not need to be washed frequently. When washed, they do not release microplastic fibers into the environment. Both transhumance and wool are effected by, for example industrial agriculture, profit-driven global textile trade, geopolitics, environmental degradation of land, and private property.

To rethink and value transhumance and wool in a contemporary context, the Wool March is an experiential learning and listening space between animals, humans and landscapes. Through wool and walking we will have the opportunity to think on an inclusive scale where we are heading and where we want to be. The Wool March is an open event for the public and a variety of guests. We walk together, learn from the other how to walk more nimbly on the planet to develop pastures for all beings. The sheep are given a voice, with hand felted (with their own wool) embroidered blankets with sayings about wool and sheep-human capacities. The wool blankets are felted in community workshops, and whilst hands are in the wool, ancient stories of wool come out.

images above: community wool workshops create wool activist blankets for sheep. The blankets are embroidered with sayings collected from workshops in a variety of languages

The first of many Wool Marches happened on October 2, 2022, in Tilburg, The Netherlands. 100 + people walked through the city founded from the convergence of sheep herding paths, and supported a once thriving wool textile industry. With 300 Kempische Heideschaap sheep and the wonderful shepherds of de Lachende Ooi, including the their owner Bart Ekkendonk, we brought the practice of transhumance into the streets to say ‘hello, we are back, we belong here and will continue’.

For up to date information about the next Wool March check out Instagram: @woolmarch

Wool March Movie. Tilburg, The Netherlands, October 2022 by Blowfish Filmworks

YouTube interview, Cynthia Hathaway for World Hope Forum, Co-Founders Lidewij Edelkoort and Philip Fimmano. 2022

The Wool March could not have been made possible with out the efforts of, and with thanks to the following:

  • the Kempische Heideschaap sheep for their beautiful beings, as co-workers and companions with us
  • Bart van Ekkendonk, the wonder shepherd and owner @delachendeooi for sharing such a crazy wonderful idea and making this happen
  • Shepherd Marly Gommans @marlyenbendebordercollie for walking together on the heide and teaching me so much
  • the companion collies + co-workers Dex, Flo and Oak
  • all the shepherds of De Lachende Ooi, who have taken up this profession of multi-knowing. Our future is better for doing so: Bosse, Emiel, Sandra, Misha, Vera, Annick, Petra, Tim, Renata, Jonas and Remco
  • Oliva Garcia @oliva_maakt a felting shepherd who has been guiding me with her wool wisdom since the beginning of this journey
  • Stichting DOEN @stichtingdoen and Yu-lan van Alphen for supporting socially focused projects
  • House of the Future – Huis van de Toekomst @huisvandetoekomstbotu for allowing me to bring in tons of raw wool to set up shop. Thank you Melle, Bart, Ayse, Klaas, Thamar, Moni, Iwad. Thank you to the community of BoTu, Bospolder – Tussendijk for many felting hands and sharing of stories
  • Erik Wong @erik.p.wong for the graphic design of the blankets that pop!
  • Erik Wong and Sophie Krier, In Search of the Pluriverse @insearchofthepluriverse and the Traveling Academy for taking in under their pluriversal wings the story of wool
  • Thijs van Buuren @tegendraads for daring to put wool under his embroidery machines
  • Hasnain Lilani @datinifibres, Pakistan who recycles 5000 tons of post-consumer sweater waste, one of our vital global partners in redeeming wool
  • Textiel Museum @textielmuseum for hosting the start of the walk in this past present future spot of wool
  • International students of the KABK Industrial Design Masters @master_industrial_design for felting with Inge the black sheep blanket
  • Fibershed NL @fibershed.nl for their support
  • Joanna van der Zanden for her constant belief
  • Petra Robben, Stadsmuseum Tilburg @stadsmuseum013
  • Marlene Davis @mex.can.pet.partners for everything
  • Lidewij Edelkoort and Philip Fimmano, World Hope Forum
  • Beau Meevis for film documentation and production
  • Joney Habraken @joneyhabrakenphotography for photography
  • all of you walking towards a woolly future!

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