Art

Eat With Great Delight

14 October 2019Alserkal Avenue
Eat With Great Delight
Eat With Great Delight
Eat With Great Delight
Eat With Great Delight

On 12 September, Rajyashri Goody, alongside Nahla Al Tabbaa and Mufaddal Husein of Frying Pan Adventures, led a food walk in the Satwa neighbourhood of Dubai. Designed and curated by Goody, Al Tabbaa, and Husein, the Eat with great delight walk referenced the artist’s project, Eat with Great Delight, currently showing as part of the Body Building exhibition at Ishara Art Foundation, which explores South Asian identities across urban experiences and the built environment.

Untitled, 2018, Photograph, inkjet print on paper, 21 x 31.7cm, courtesy the artist

The walk inspired a discussion around the hierarchies and sensitivities that permeate food culture. Through food typically brings people together, Goody’s work highlights how the opposite can also occur. The food tour was punctuated by dishes and discussions including Biryani and Zarda, and Biryani’s collective connotation; Karak Chai, or the working man’s fuel, and how the humble brew has been co-opted; the significance of bread and bakeries, and bread as a socio-economic marker; and Persian stews and kebabs, and the trajectories of feasts and how they can bring people together, but also exclude them.

   Untitled, 2018, Photograph, inkjet print on paper, 21 x 31.7cm, courtesy the artist

Goody’s artist statement on Eat with Great Delight:

 

“Though there are very few Dalit cookbooks, the works produced by the Dalit literary movement contain many vivid and complex descriptions of food. These descriptions deal with cooking, eating, celebration, shame, hunger, and trauma, all of which serve to call attention to Dalit communities’ everyday struggle and resistance under the caste system. Since 2017 I have been collecting extracts of Dalit literature that relate to food, and compiling them into a book of recipes. As Arjun Appadurai has said, cookbooks are “the humble literature of complex civilizations”. Creating one for Dalit people, among whom access to food and literacy has been sparse, is an attempt to contest what Sharmila Rege has described as the “‘official forgetting’ of histories of caste oppression, struggles, and resistance”.  

 

Untitled, 2018, Photograph, inkjet print on paper, 21 x 31.7cm, courtesy the artist

I was born and raised in Pune in a half-Dalit, half-English family. Since the 1980s we have had the luxury of a camera, and as a result we’ve had the opportunity to document our personal histories. While conducting my research into Dalit food culture, I became aware of the lack of positive imagery associated with Dalit communities in public circulation. It is of course immensely important to extensively document the oppression of the caste system and the deplorable conditions that many Dalit people are forced to survive under. But I think there is something significant – and humanising – in disseminating positive depictions of Dalit people too. With this in mind, I turned to photographs of my own family, and the happy memories captured on camera – most of which revolve around the sharing of food.  

   Untitled, 2018, Photograph, inkjet print on paper, 48.2 x 33cm, courtesy the artist

Taken between 1984 and 2004 on point-and-shoot film cameras, the images displayed range from my mother drinking Maaza at her wedding reception, my aunt serving paper plates of Budhani wafers and cake to guests at a birthday, my brother learning how to use a knife and fork, sharing a meal with family, to spending time in the kitchen. Mostly they were shot by my mother, Vishakha, and my father, Lokamitra.”

 

Body Building is on view at Ishara Art Foundation until 14 December.

Ishara Art Foundation is presented in partnership with Alserkal Avenue.

 

Videography by John Gatapia of Seeing Things.