Ort Gallery was about to open Recipes for Resistance, a project produced and curated by artist Raju Rage when the covid-19 lockdown was enforced and we had to postpone the opening of the show. It is now due to open in September 2020 (tbc) and Rage has been working behind the scenes on publishing the publication of the same name both online and in printed form and commissioning creative responses to it.
Raju Rage talks about their ideas behind the project.
The concept of Recipes for Resistance is really that food is much more than just food and ingredients, that it relates to a wider politic, whether that politics is around migration, belonging, memory, culture, coloniality, gender, resilience, adaptability and resistance. The idea of the project was to look into those things and look into them in more detail, in more depth, in more nuance and complexity. For me, Recipes for Resistance functions as both a metaphor and testimony to survival. And what I mean by that is that it’s a metaphor for resistance, for survival, but it’s also a testimony because a lot of it is based on actuality and reality from people who came before us who contribute to our experience and knowledge of food and ingredients.
I decided to create an exhibition to allow it to be multimedia and interactive. I knew that a publication wouldn’t do justice to the themes that I was exploring which are very much around the senses and the sensual experience of food which is limited in a text. For that reason I wanted to incorporate other mediums such as video, audio, prints, photography, artwork. I was given the opportunity by Ort Gallery to showcase some work and I decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to showcase “Recipes for Resistance”. It’s something that I had been building for years and not finding quite right the right outlet for it and also with the local context of Birmingham and it’s rich history of South Asian culture and migration it just seemed very appropriate for this space and time.
For me these conversations around food and politics are something that I have been seeing in other artists work, but not just in artists but also other cultural producers including chefs. I wanted to open up the exhibition so it’s not just visual artists but also other cultural, creative producers and contributors. For the exhibition and publication I wanted to centre South Asian voices from South Asia but also the diaspora in an attempt to connect them better and platform issues of ethnicity, religion, caste, and gender. These are conversations that I haven’t found being discussed in as much depth as I would like to have experienced. This publication and exhibition has allowed me the opportunity to centre that focus. As I say in the publication, Asian identity in Britain as with the British curry has often been flattened down and simplified when actually there’s a lot of complexity and layers to them.
The postponement of the show has meant that we have been able to open up the conversation online and digitally. I have also printed publications from the exhibition, which are circulating, which has been great to see people’s responses and popularity and it gives us an indication of the interest for the exhibition. So those are circulating and I have commissioned creative responses to the publication which will be going out digitally and online. So this has allowed the context of the exhibition to migrate further. However, the publication was really an instrumental part of the exhibition and is part of the artworks and is meant to be in conversation with the artworks, so I was a bit reluctant to put it out without that context. However, it can work in both contexts.
So I’m looking forward to how the publication will be part of the exhibition as well as how it’s able to migrate beyond that and we have had a lot of interest online from people who I would not have expected to be interested in the publication and the exhibition so that is a good surprise and indication.
We have shipped the publication to many different places and it’s really reached really far out to the point where I think we’re going to have to do a reprint. There’s been a lot of popularity and it’s nice that these publications can be received into people’s homes where people are isolating and bring them inspiration, engagement and joy within their own home, which an exhibition would not be able to do. So that has been one of the benefits from the unfortunate experience of covid.
I’m hoping that this project allows for conversations around caste, also coloniality and the positionality of South Asians within Britain and our connection to South Asia as well. I’m hoping it allows this connection and allows this conversation to be had and also debate around that, because there are many different perspectives around our positionality here and our food and our culture and how that assimilates or integrates or doesn’t fit in or doesn’t blend or belong as well. I’m hoping it also allows this conversation around British colonialism, British Empire and the Colonial trade of the East India Company and also the military and the Empire in regards to trade, which brought a lot of South Asians to Britain. I’m hoping that we will be able to have those conversations in more depth and in more nuance.
In terms of legacy I’m interested in the cross-generational aspect of this but also cross cultural and cross ethnicities and religions as well. I feel in South Asian identity in the UK is sometimes fragmented and segregated and often we are not sharing our experiences within varied religions and ethnicities. Lastly, I’m hoping that the conversation around gender and food and culture can also be discussed in a way that feels empowering. I’m lucky to have a lot of ingredients and contributors to the exhibition of publication. I’m going to list them now because I feel like they need and deserve the attention and credibility and importance that they bring to this: Navi Kaur, Sabba Khan, Jasleen Kaur, Yas Lime, Edible Archives, Raisa Kabir, Vijeta Kumar, Queer Masala, Nandini Moitra, Zarina Muhammad, YSK Prerana, WAH! Womxn Artists of Colour and myself Raju Rage.
I want to give a dedication for this publication, which was inspired by a quote by Almah LaVon:
“Just the other day I was reading that resilience is an ecology more than it is an individual trait or possession. If so, dreaming together can weave the context for our healing. That is: a container, an atmosphere, a potentiality. Not transcendence. In fact, I’m not sure how much we’re breaking free of personal/collective trauma as much as we’re brewing adaptogens, recipes for resistance, a kiss and a fist.”
This quote gave me the inspiration for the title of the publication and project and exhibition Recipes for Resistance. Thank you Almah LaVon and a big thanks to Ort Gallery and also Amal Foundation and to Arts Council England for the funding and the support for this project.”