We organize cooking workshops for refugees using the food aid they receive and often reject/resell. We start among the Somalis.
Robert Filliou’s words will never sound more true than they do today: “Art is what makes life more interesting than art”. It will not seem strange or untimely for the Artist to take a stand when life is being threatened. Nor will it seem unwise for the Chef to fight against a danger that nowadays threatens millions of men, women, and children.
Why not do it? Why not help others? Why not help art be what it should be?
The relationship I establish between eaters and their food is mainly woven through the actual experience of eating. Its connection to reality is very intimate. It is important to incorporate: where they come from, what their life was like before, what they currently / used to cook, and which ingredients they use. Then it will be possible to adapt the food delivered by international aid and attempt to create recipes to their tastes. Discussions and shared experiences will be the core of The Hunger Kitchen.
A team led by the artist/cook Gilles Stassart will head to Somaliland to help local communities, internally displaced people and Yemeni and Oromo refugees make the best use of the food aid they receive from donors. The team consists of Gilles, the project manager Robert Kluijver and the social media reporter Toshihiro Fukunishi.
This is the first step – a pilot project – to address an issue that we believe very significant. Millions of people in the Horn of Africa receive food aid, but they often don’t know what to do with it. A monthly ration of cereals, pulses, cooking oil and salt are sufficient to not die of hunger, but they may not correspond to the eating habits of recipients, who often resell the food aid to buy food more to their liking. Our intention is to help them cook those food rations in ways they find tasteful themselves, while keeping their nutritious value.
The choice of Somaliland as first project location site is one of convenience. Robert, the project manager, lives there part time, and through his work has developed close relations with local authorities, NGOs and civil society. Somaliland, unlike Somalia, is peaceful, but it still has to cope with many regional difficulties that create flows of displaced people and migrants: drought in the Horn of Africa, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and social tensions and poverty in Ethiopia. If successful, we would like to implement the second part of this project in Ethiopia.
The fieldwork will be done in Somaliland in the second half of April 2018. First Gilles takes one week to familiarize himself with local food culture, products from the natural environment and the market. The second week we hold a week-long workshop with women and men selected from different communities to develop recipes using food aid, nutritional supplements and locally available cheap ingredients.
The project will result in recipes that can easily be reproduced by other recipients of the same food aid, and that can be transmitted from phone to phone. Hopefully some of these people will go on to produce street food as a small business.
The project will be filmed and the visual material produced by Tony Headley, who has a wide network of possible distributors. The movie should be edited by mid-May. Toshihiro Fukunishi, our social media expert, will daily report about the project on social media, sharing the recipes developed by the local cooks. A twitter account and facebook page called The Hunger Kitchen have already been created. Meanwhile, Gilles will blog about the experience in the French newspaper Liberation – his blog is called Kirikomi.
A video will be shot, and presented along other results of the project – including the food cooked – in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sete, France, during the summer of 2018. Galleries in Tokyo and Paris will also present the project, and we plan to invite our sponsors to a lunch or dinner in these three locations at the end of May, so they can taste the recipes developed by the refugee cooks.
The budget of 13,000 Euros covers the travel and workshop implementation costs, including travel to Somaliland, local travel, assistance, acquisitions, and services. Our object is not financial gain, although we may earn some money by selling the rights to the movie. If we do, we will reinvest the money into a second project.
The overall objective is to raise awareness about the need to not only feed, but to interact with eating cultures among the world’s displaced peoples, thus re-humanizing those who often become mere statistics or who are reduced to stereotypes of ‘otherness’ and destitution.
Security will not be an issue for us in Somaliland, as it is an area Robert, the project manager, is very familiar with. As he partially lives in the country’s capital, Hargeisa and has worked with NGOs and local authorities, he can ensure implementation will be smooth.
There is a risk that the project will take a bit longer to prepare, when Gilles is in Berbera; but the extra financial costs associated with that are on us. Gilles has to prepare the video and the food for the museum project anyhow – we have already made commitments.
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