Is our humanity enhanced when we share and eat food? Do we see each other better? Embrace others better? The meal is that quintessential setting where we place down our weapons of war, our differences. When the meal is exceptional, maybe with some wine in the equation, we can forget that there is any distance at all between us and others. We relax, laugh, tell stories; and what we carry away from the experience can inform all of living.
This session of RAW Académie centers culinary exchange as a vehicle of creative and civic possibility. The meal is an arrival: it gathers people, but also foodways—the ecologies, economies, and customs that shape how dishes are sourced and prepared, by whom, and with what methods. It is also a point of negotiation. As much as the spread of ingredients and their cooks is an index of cultural contact and cosmopolitanism, taste remains political. From caste to class to empire, taste and its opposite, disgust—le goût et le dégoût—are so often deployed, and so effectively inculcated, in the service of oppression.
Perhaps most of all, we see the meal as a point of departure. Breaking bread, this wonderfully reiterated moment of community and ceremony, opens space and time for exchange. In so doing, it can crystallize ideas, generate projects, and refresh artistic and civic imagination. In a time of moral and ecological crisis, food and the meal engage not only urgent stakes but also possibility—beautiful, vital, liberatory.
We will gather in this spirit for seven weeks in a specific foodscape, that of Dakar. Like every foodscape, it expresses deep histories but is also in constant evolution under the effect of many factors, local and external. We intend to engage closely with this foodscape and its people, out in the city and beyond—in markets and further up the chain of supply, and in convivial spaces, including the RAW house with its cooks, kitchen, and communal table. As the session’s first three weeks overlap with Ramadan, we will embrace the ethos of the ndogou—the Senegalese name for iftar, the breaking of the fast in community.
The visiting faculty for this session work with food systems, the culture of eating, and conviviality from multiple perspectives. Likewise, we invite applications from prospective fellows in a range of fields and practices—cooks, artists, writers, activists, instigators of cultural situations and spaces—to join together for a time of exploration, mutuality, and nourishment.
Invited faculty will include, amongst others, writers Sharanya Deepak and Jessica Harris, artists and performers Rahima Gambo and Wura-Natasha Ogunji, geographer and food activist Salimata Wade as well as Breaking Bread collective.
A Nigerian born author and auto-didactic painter, Yemisi Aribisala is best known for her thematic use of food to explore Nigerian stories. Her first book, Longthroat Memoirs: Soups, Sex & Nigerian Tastebuds uses Nigerian food as a literary substrate to think about Nigeria’s culture and society. Longthroat Memoirs won a Gourmand’s World Cookbook award, was shortlisted for the 2018 Art of Eating Prize and won the 2016 John Avery Prize at the Andre Simon Book Awards. Her second book Wait! I’m Bringing a Bird Out of My Pocket, will be published by Chimurenga, Cape Town. She lives in London.
Siddhartha Mitter is a writer with a focus on arts, art-making, and creative communities in their social and political context. Siddhartha's art journalism appears frequently in the New York Times, Artforum, and other publications. He is a former frequent contributor to the Village Voice, WNYC New York Public Radio, and the Boston Globe, and has written or appeared in numerous other venues. Siddhartha received a Creative Capital / Andy Warhol Foundation Art Writers Grant in the 2017-18 season. He is currently engaged in extensive research and reporting on artist and creative communities and their contribution to expanding civic possibility in major African cities, along with journalism projects in a similar spirit in other places, particularly in the United States. Siddhartha has a personal background in India, the United States, and France, and has worked and traveled extensively in West Africa. He did undergraduate and graduate studies in the political economy of development and related fields at Harvard University. He has worked principally in culture journalism since 2004, and has been based in New York City since 2006.