The Art of Tasting Culture @ Latino Arts, Inc.
Interview with Sarah Khan, Founder of The Tasting Cultures Foundation
Food %u23AFA necessary fuel for the human body, which often defines a cultural, economic and nutritional status for every person. Latino Arts, Inc. at the United Community Center presents "Tasting Cultures: The Arts of Latino Foodways" in cooperation with The Tasting Cultures Foundation. Numerous artists through multiple mediums express the art and importance to specific Latino foods and traditions that ultimately provides nutrition for the body, mind and soul.
These concepts inspired the inception of The Tasting Cultures Foundation (TCF), an organization founded by Sarah K. Khan. Khan attended the exhibition opening Friday night to explain the principles TCF focuses on. The foundation's current mission statement believes, "TCF connects people to food...to raise awareness, educate, inspire social change around local, regional, national and global foodways on the agricultural, culinary and healing practices of people."
One of these focus areas for TCF involves Meal by Meal Seed Grants because TCF promotes, "An increase in food security. This encourages and supports where all individuals would have access to safe, sufficient and nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life." The seed grant project along with other programs results in the traveling exhibitions under the general title "The Art of Foodways" for specific cultures and venues as seen currently in Milwaukee. Founder and Director of TCF Sarah Khan speaks to this new exhibition she co-curated with Latino Arts, Inc.
How did you come to collaborate with Latino Arts, Inc?
The foundation began two to three years ago, and we hoped to use multi-media for education in the area of food and culture. We live in Madison where my husband works as a professor at UW-Madison in African Art, and also in New York, where the foundation is based. The Madison connection helped us to partner with Latino Arts, Inc. and we hope to make the exhibition an annual or biannual event. It is the artist in these cultures that hold these food memories, often through physical vessels [such as cups, bowls, jars and plates], including the physical body [also interpreted as a vessel]. Both these physical vessels have ancestral and contemporary memories [that the exhibition connects to].
What does the foundation represent and focus on?
The foundation focuses on "taste memories." Taste and of course, smell being one of the oldest and strongest senses that we remember. Tasting memories are multi ethnic and we want all people to see the beauty of their cultural heritage. Be proud to celebrate the multiple aspects food means in every culture. All cultures celebrate [events and specific people] with food. TCF hopes to inspire, provoke and illuminate this through connecting food and culture [Through its various program including The Tasting Cultures Radio Show, Spice Mixtures of the Spice Routes, and Recipes for Life, to name only a few].
What are several of your favorite artworks in this exhibition?
There is this mixed media piece by a Native American artist Kaylynn Sulivan TwoTrees. It is a shadow box and altar to the honeybee, a sculpture that displays a dead bee colony and speaks to a bee colony collapse. When the bees die, they can no longer pollinate, and all food supplies would disappear. The piece also represents an offering of sweetness to pollination. Through this artwork discussion could surround pollination, in biology and botany, the environment, climate change and science. Another piece by Accra Shepp, an African American artist, is titled Two Brothers. The piece imprints photographs on an actual tobacco leaf, of people who have worked on three contemporary Southern tobacco farms in North Carolina, in Shepp's photograph here two brothers. Today, instead of African Americans working on tobacco farms as they did in early centuries as slaves, it is the migrant Mexican who labors on these farms. Tobacco [and smoking] becomes a ritual, an economic product, and a historical political legacy. One more sculptural installation by Eneida Sanchez, a Brazilian artist, was created from actual chocolate mixed with paraffin. The faces, or masks, and limbs mounted on the wall may represent the human connection to cocoa as a delicacy, an economic and mythological plant. Food amplifies the discussion on many subjects and issues seen through this artwork.
What energizes you in directing the future of TCF?
Food is culture. Culture represents the biological and ethnic diversity in the world. Without food and cultural diversity [shown by what people prepare, eat and celebrate with], I am empty, both physically and spiritually. I can transform people [physically and psychologically] with food. People [usually] need to be civilized when they eat, and you can share food easily. I want my life works to transform other people's lives. I can do this through food [rather than a political soap box]. We're losing this pride in diversity throughout the world, and the appreciation of our cultural identity. Monocultures lead to mono minds, and then a loss of creative thinking.
(The Latino Arts, Inc. exhibition continues through July 11. For further information discover The Tasting Cultures Foundation at www.tastingcultures.org or www.tastingcultures.blogspot.org and Eat to Heal at www.ZesterDaily.com)