Multi-platform piece (CD, book, workshops)
Supriya Nagarajan (voice) India / UK
Maria Sappho (piano and objects) USA / UK
Ruchi Singh (Tikka Masala cooking and voice testimony) India / UK
Cyanching Wu (cello and field recordings) Taiwan, UK
Colin Frank (percussion) Canada / UK
David Vélez (cooking, research, composition, field recordings, cooking, sampling and sequencing) Colombia / UK
Sister Sandra (testimonial) Jamaica / UK
Joey Hopkinson (narration) UK
Joanne Mansley (shouting) UK
David (shouting) UK
Dalston street fruit kiosk traders (shouting)
Kalim Siddiqui (research) India / UK
Only the act of resistance resists death, either as a work of art or as human struggle.
– Giles Deleuze
Group of collaborators: Supriya Nagarajan (voice) India/UK, Maria Sappho (piano and objects) USA/UK, Ruchi Singh (Tikka Masala cooking and testimonial) India/UK, Cyanching Wu (cello and field recordings) Taiwan/UK, Colin Frank (percussion) Canada/UK, Sister Sandra (testimonial and research) Jamaica/UK, Joey Hopkinson (narration and research) UK, Joanne Mansley (shouting) UK, David (shouting) UK, Dalston street fruit kiosk traders (shouting), Dr. Kalim Siddiqui (research) India/UK.
Turmeric is a multiplatform sound art project that examines the sounds, aromas, and flavours of the preparation of Tikka Masala and the political intricacy and complexity that surrounds its origins and great popularity in the UK. Culinary uprooting can be a common experience for many immigrants and foreigners who struggle to find the ingredients of their hometown dishes. This is severely aggravated when they are victims of racism and discrimination by neighbours and landlords because of the smell of their concoctions, as what initially occurred in the UK in the 1950s when Asian and Caribbean immigrants finally had partial access to some of their native spices. Today, manifestations of racism and discrimination towards immigrant culinary culture persist; the most recent case occurred just a few years ago when real estate mogul Fergus Wilson was found at fault of banning immigrants from letting and buying housing.
The sensorial paradox that emerges around the scents and flavours of immigrant food in the UK refers to how food can operate as a critical device that overturns the structures of society and shows important clues for desired worlds of equity and inclusion. Alterity here, works as the possibility to overthrow our biases.
Dr. Kalim Siddiqui is an economist and researcher who studies the effects of colonial models in global inequality, and who has collaborated extensively with my artistic research. On one occasion, he mentioned stories from the 1950s and 1960s in which the racism against the scents of immigrant home and restaurant kitchens escalated into sheer violence and vandalism, putting these communities in conditions of great vulnerability. This is a matter studied by Elizabeth Buettner in her essay Going for an Indian, and by Benjamin Bowling in his text The Emergence of Violent Racism as a Public Issue in Britain 1945-81, included in the book Racial Violence in Britain from 1993.
In Asian Voices: First Generation Migrants, authored by environmental researcher Nafhesa Ali, I learned that between the 1950-70s, immigrant cooks and families offered food to their British neighbours to reply with affection and generosity to their negative biases associated with the aroma of their cooking:
At the time, it was also a new experience for English people with the Asians coming in and if they felt a curry being made next door they thought ‘Oh it smells’. But eventually if you have English neighbours we would say ‘Would you have some as well?’.
For Siddiqui, these and other nourishing, affectionate, generous and peaceful responses to discrimination and, in some cases, to violence, have been quite significant in the development of more diverse and inclusive communities in Britain. This is when I understood resistance as a possibility that permeates society with empathy and solidarity in which biases and prejudgements can be subverted by the affection and generosity in which resistance operates. To renounce and desist from the mechanisms of oppression, thereby having an affectionate action of liberation and empowerment emerge.
To work with Kalim Siddiqui, allowed me to acknowledge the scope and possibility of Turmeric as a project that approaches immigrant recipes in the UK as actant materiality, which, in alliance with the diaspora, exercises resistance and contests to violence with joy and affection. These recipes have resisted cultural, economic, and environmental changes, mutating and expanding for thousands of years.
Despite the frequent condemnation of the scents of the preparation of immigrant recipes in the UK, Tikka Masala is today one of the major food exports of the country and was voted as the most popular dish in the UK in a 2011 survey. This brought further discussion to the controversy that had already sparked in 2009 when British politician Mohammad Sarwar requested Protected Designation of Origin for the Scottish authorship of Tikka Masala.
The basis of Tikka Masala preparation dates back to the Mughal Empire in the 15th century in South Asia when turmeric was so rare and valuable that groups of merchants, granted by the British Empire, travelled to South Asian territory to trade with it and with other valued spices.254 This venture led to the formation of the East India Company, which later flourished into a military British enterprise operating in Asia, which thenceforth has been denounced for its role in the imposition of colonizing British policies in India.
Listen to Factories (track #4)
Turmeric (album) CD
1 When …02:06
Ruchi Singh: cooking and testimonial, Maria Sapho: piano and objects, Colin Frank: percussion, David Vélez: recording and sampling.
2 Adaptation … 01:17
Sister Sandra: testimonial, David Vélez: recording
3 Equatorial latitudes … 09:21
Ruchi Singh: cooking and testimonial, Maria Sapho: piano and objects, Cyanching Wu: cello and field recordings, Colin Frank: percussion, David Vélez: recording, sampling and sequencing
4 Factories … 11:03
Ruchi Singh: cooking, Supriya Nagarajan: voice, Maria Sapho: piano and objects, Cyanching Wu: cello and field recordings, Colin Frank: percussion, David Vélez: recording, sampling and sequencing
5 Uproot (based on a traditional Indian song) … 02:44 Supriya Nagarajan: voice, Maria Sapho: piano and objects, Cyanching Wu: cello and field recordings, Colin Frank: percussion, Joanne Mansley: shouting, Joe Hopkinson: voice over, David Vélez: recording, sampling and sequencing
6 Grim … 05:49
Ruchi Singh: cooking and testimonial, Dalston street fruit kiosk traders: shouting, David Vélez: recording, sampling and sequencing
7 Cooking heat … 07:06
Ruchi Singh: cooking and testimonial, Supriya Nagarajan: voice, Maria Sapho: piano and objects, Colin Frank: percussion, David: shouting, David Vélez: recording, sampling and sequencing
8 Rationing … 10:50
David Vélez: cooking over Ruchi’s Tikka masala leftovers, recording, sampling and sequencing
Capsaicin (appendix) digital
1 Capsaicin … 31:57
Ruchi Singh: cooking, David Vélez: recording