Regardless of where we live, how old we are, or what beliefs we hold, our race, social status and position each of us is affected by this extraordinary surreal situation amid COVID-19. Together we have been immobilised for days or months now. We are trying hard to fight the virus every moment without knowing what is next. The novel Corona virus has sped around the world is yet spreading aggressively in many locations and frequently depicted as a wave in the globe.
Poorer or developing countries including Bangladesh is already going through an enormous crisis of job and food while most people are hand to mouth over here. In this highly dense country, in one hand, many do not even realize the high risk and danger of this deadly virus and social distancing seems impossible in their lives, although on the other hand, many are struggling to survive and fight putting themselves in self-isolation and keeping social distancing. The economy of the most powerful developed countries already have fallen down that will definitely badly affect us in the coming days.
Everywhere, art and artists are experiencing increasing pressure, as public spaces are avoided these days and there is no commerce related to art and culture this time. It is indeed in times of Global crisis when the power and need for art and culture are most apparent. We believe challenging times can bring out the worst or the best in society. We need to follow the solidarity and commitment to the positive. Overlooking our previous practice and superficial ideas, in times of this frustrating pandemic, extremely needed transformative power of our art & culture will be our response.
During this most challenging time of the history, Britto has initiated an inspiring project focusing on Food and Art. Ensuring the social distancing, a number of artists, writers, artisans, makers, communities and farmers are engaged with the project for months from March 2020 and eventually at least a year ahead and beyond. An ecosystem is organically developing and many artists’ are experiencing the biodiversity throughout this process of growing and making. Learning, investigating, researching and negotiating have become the part of the process as well.
Chittagong based Santaran Art Organization and Thakurgaon based Gidree Bawlee and a group of individuals have already joined the project from each location.
Two vital actions needed to be implemented focusing on ‘Zero Waste- FoodArt ’ time frames:
a) Immediate action: 1-3 month
b) Long term project: 12 months and beyond
The first one includes artists who would like to make or supply food while the second one focuses on the long term involvement of the participants to germination, plantation and growing vegetables, fruits and main crops such as rice.
Zero Waste – FoodArt has four major elements:
1) Growing/planting vegetable or crop as well as making /supplying food.
2) Sharing/distributing homegrown foodstuff or homemade/ readymade food with neighbors or any other people in need.
3) Using every possible part of the vegetable/ crop and all available empty spaces around.
4) Throughout the process of growing and harvesting the artists would create artworks implementing natural materials/waste from own agriculture via any possible form of art.
How it is ‘Zero Waste’?
The art materials that we use for artworks are not meant to be reused in most cases. But this time as food is our main material, the artists would recycle the produced food/crops/ packaging without wasting anything related to the project. Whatever land/space is available or lying next to us would also be used as part of growing foodstuff. This is how we introduce- ‘Zero Waste’.
Throughout the process of farming, making, distributing or organizing food, the artists are welcomed to create site specific, land art, installation, performance, drawing, diary writing, book making, documentation via photography and video, online/offline interaction, implementation of educational & research based ideas on their own terms. A number of group video calls are made by the whole team of the project discussing, sharing and brainstorming the possibilities about how some of the artists would also like to use the available empty spaces across the country to grow crops/ vegetables for the people who are in need of food due to the pandemic.
Learning from elderly members of the family, agriculture expert as well as the farmers from the villages giving a new dimension and expansion to the whole project. Artists are sharing their new experiences of successes and failures as well as discovering a new understanding of the earth, plant, nature, ecology and biodiversity amongst each other via the group video meetings time to time.
Who are the beneficiaries?
The mainstream deprived people, different ethnic communities from remote areas, slum dwellers, the homeless people, children from a brothel and the jobless people from suburbs who depend on the towns or cities to survive are the beneficiaries of the final foodstuffs.
To extend and expand the project as part of the solidarity, we are inviting interested artists/ art organisations/ collectives from any location of the globe to join the project ‘Zero Waste-FoodArt’. The participating artists/ organisations/ collectives have to raise their expenses to execute their own project.
THE LIST OF THE PROJECTS & LOCATIONS
WITH THE ETHNIC COMMUNITIES & VILLAGERS
Project initiator: Molla Sagar
Project Title: Aush- আউশ
Location: Pirgaccha- Chunia, Modhupur Forest
Molla Sagar lives and works in a Mandi (ethnic group) community of the Modhupur Forest. Aush is a genre of rice that used to be cultivated in past before the IRRI took place. Usually there are two types of main rice cultivated twice a year only. The artists convinced a Mandi family to use a piece of land to cultivate Aush using organic old method. No synthetic but the natural fertilizer is used in this land.
As a documentary filmmaker, Molla Sagar will make a film on the whole process and will capture the still images as part of his own work.
Project initiator: Gidree Bawlee
Project name: Kitchen Garden
Location: Molani Para, Thakurgaon
Gidree Bawlee an art organisation biased in northern part of Bangladesh have
developed their project with bamboo frames focusing on various forms and shapes. In collaboration with the Santal Community, a very prominent ethnic community from the north, Gidree Bawlee is making a seasonal calendar of colorful vegetables by using organic ethnic seeds all year round on the frames, which will make the frames look like colorful paintings from afar when they are all grown. The vertical gardens in different houses with various shapes will be documented time to time and the foodstuffs will be distributed to the Santal families looking after the gardens.
Project initiator: Santaran Art Organization
Title of the project: Uttoran (Overcome)
Location: Alikadam Upazila , Bandarban Hilly District
Santaran Art Organization has an access to use some empty lands of the hills at Alikadam, Bandarban hilly district at where a team of artists has been working with an indigenous community Mro since a while. A physical space of Santanran Art Organization, an artists run collective from Chittagong the southern part of the country, is located on a hill of Ali Kadam as well. The artists’ team in collaboration with Mro community would like to harvest crops following the traditional indigenous zum process on the hills that would cover the needs of few families.
With the harvested foodstuff the team will develop a land work, performance etc. at the same venue during the process of cultivation.
Project initiator: Joydeb Roaja
Project Title: Lemon Garden
Location: Khamarpara, Khagrachori Hilly District
Tripura community is not habituated having lemon; therefore lemon is absent in their garden. This time vitamin C is necessary for everyone to boost up the immune system, so the artist convinced the community of his own village to start growing and having lemon in near future. Since the community usually eat huge amount of chilly and there is some particular time in the year when they have buy the challis with high price, Joydeb wants them to grow chilly plants between the gaps of lemon trees.
In his village in Kahgrachhori hill district the artist’s family own some roadside uncultivated land at where Joydeb along with his family is planting 5oo lemon trees and 1000 local hot chilly plants on the both sides of the road. If it is maintained well, the plants will provide lemon and chilly throughout the year. When the plants will start giving lemons, once a week the villagers will be provided with lemon juice at a point of nearest riverbank. The local primary school children will also be provided lemon juice with sugar once a week. All the produced lemons and chillies will be shared equally to the villagers.
Joydeb Roaja wants to continue the plantation project at least for next two years using more roadside lands growing various fruits with a hope that the villagers will be self-dependant requiring no cash to fulfil their needs and the village will ideally have more greenery at the same time.
Project initiator: Tayeba Begum Lipi & Maynul Islam Paul
Project Title: Looking back- িফের েদখা
Location: Uzir Dharani Bari, Lakhsmipur, Gaibandha
Two artists who are siblings own around 4 acres of agricultural land in their hometown Gaibandha in the northern part of Bangladesh. This land is usually used for cultivating IRRI and Amon rice each year. The artists have decided to distribute the rice from both the harvesting to the deprived villagers. North Bengal is known as the poorest localities of the country due to the flood and other disasters occur each year.
During the next harvesting in winter, the artists would create large land works providing a design to the farmers to follow the design while cutting the crops, which will be properly documented. The waste of the crops will also be used creating art projects and finally distributing everything to the farmers. Eventually the community will be a part of contributing their skills and creativity to the art project.
KITCHEN GARDENS IN URBAN SETUP
Project initiator: Abu Naser Robi and team
Project Title: Urban-agro unit
Location: Vijoynagar, Patenga, Chittagong
The artist is applying the Hydroponic technique for home grown daily-food and emergency food management in urban setup. The hydroponic process needs no watering everyday but it gives an enormous amount of various vegetables using smaller spaces on the rooftop or indoor spaces. Abu Naser Robi created a team with a group of young volunteers at his family home near the Pattenga sea beach in Chittagong. With his instruction and advice, maintaining the required social distancing, the team is started helping the inhabitants of the entire locality to develop a chain of rooftop gardens using the same technique.
As part of the process, Robi has been designing various structures for the gardening and sharing the day-to-day development of the garden via social media with all the new gardeners from his own home in Dhaka, at where he himself has been developing a home-grown daily food garden since a while.
Project initiator: Imran Hossain Piplu in colaburation with Kamrul Mithun
Project Title: Chash- Bansh, চাষ-বাঁশ
Location: Greenary Agro, Kolatia, Keraniganj
The artist is using a small land to grow a vertical urban vegetable garden for a year. Each unit will need only 2 x 2ft land to grow a great amount of the vegetables that can cover a number of families round the year. The artists has recycled the plastic made paint pots to grow the vegetables hanging from the structures.
Various creative bamboo structures of the vertical garden is designed by the artist in collaboration with a bamboo craftsman Mujibor.
Project initiator: Mahbubur Rahman & Tayeba Begum Lipi
Project Name: Tales of the Soil- মািটর গল্পগাঁথা
Location: Studio Mahbub& Lipi, Hasnabad, S. Keraniganj, Dhaka
The Artist couple has started the project at their home/studio. They have only one work assistant helping them developing a long term extended garden by slowly turning the unused land to a productive and permanent vegetable garden with the hope that it will cover their whole year’s vegetable requirement as well as support their neighbors.
The artists are developing the structural designs and forms of the garden following the Islamic pattern and one of the Zaha Hadid’s famous architecture with various shaped bamboos, which eventually will turn into a site -specific installation in coming days.
Although it is a very old village across the Buriganga River, there is the Global Heavy Chemical Ltd. Factory in 150 meters away from the Studio Mahbub & Lipi. Once in a while the factory spread out a heavily toxic gas in the middle of the night while people are usually asleep. Following the direction of the air, sometimes this gas flows over and ultimately damages the sensitive plants, leaves, vegetable or fruits of the garden. However, as crisis arises the project is now moving towards the research and investigation to challenge the crisis.
Project initiator: Jewel A. Rob
Project Title: Food Garage
Location: Rayerbagh, Dhaka
In the neighborhood of the artist Jewel A. Rob there are few Rickshaw garages where some of the rickshaw puller live. During this very crucial time of the pandemic, they have become jobless. Therefore this project is aimed to support them and their families with basic food as well as providing the social awareness for their safe and healthy life as much as possible.
However, the parents of the artist run a school, where few students from the low earning families are studying. A number of 20 identified families can also be supported by the project ‘ Food Garage’.
Jewel is growing some particular quick grown vegetables to accomplish their needs as well as involving the kids of the school in the awareness part of this project. The students will create awareness related drawings from their home remotely, that will be collect by Jewel and later on along with the food support the image messages will be conveyed from one family to the other. This whole project will be done managing the complete health protocol.
Project initiator: Emran Sohel
Project Title: Roof Top Garden
Location: Bahsabo, Dhaka
A crowded area of Dhaka city, in Basabo, at where Emran Sohel lives in a family home, with the help of his mother and grandmother, he is creating a roof top vegetable garden and encouraging his neighbors to do the same. Nevertheless the rooftops are small in most buildings of that area; therefore they can make it bigger creating vertical gardens in what the neighbors can also start their own gardening.
The whole process will be documented and presented afterwards. The pandemic changed our lives and the artist has to take a completely unknown challenge growing food by himself, touching the soil, learning this new thing perhaps for the first time in life and at the same time developing an art project using his own experience about this gardening.
Project initiator: Teresa Albor
Project Title: The soil never sleeps
Location: British High Commissioner’s Residence, Dhaka
Never slips into ideology or nostalgia. It is place and purpose,
The perfection of decay.
A story that shifts
From mouth to mouth.
— Adam Horovitz from the poem ‘The soil never sleeps’
Vegetables grown in the recently cultivated ‘kitchen garden’ at the British High Commission Residence ready to be distributed to local people in need of food.
The new ‘kitchen garden’ takes over a large part of the formal lawn on the grounds of the British High Commission Residence currently an elite space for representational entertaining. In this sense it subverts the use of this land. It is a simple acknowledgment that soil… ‘never slips into ideology or nostalgia’. The land, once marshy and uncultivated, now inviolable as part of a diplomatic enclosure, is, after all, a resource for feeding people.
Project team: Pintu Purificacion, Clement Rosario, Robert Chatterton Dickson and the Protigga Foundation.
Project initiator: Ali Asgar Tara
Location- Logan Square, Chicago, IL, USA
In Ali Asgar Tara’s words- ‘ The key question this project asks is – what it means to be displaced or in place and trying to create a narrative that is still in flux and radically out of our binary proposition?’
The artist is using the spaces in his backyard in Chicago to produce and practice a zero-waste food system. Regardless of sustainable growth, this small piece of land also works as an area where individuals from the local community can contribute seeds and plants of their choice. This is a new learning process for Tara since using land and growing plants never has been a part of his practice before. This new material (land) requires him to connect and to be in conversation with other people, who are experienced in organic gardening and understand the weather pattern and the growth habit of the soil. This unique way of reconnecting to the land and atmosphere can be an engaging experience for the self & community while surviving the global pandemic. The produce from the garden will be shared with the local community through individual produce collection and local foodbank. In extension to this garden, Tara is also producing a 4-part zoom dinner for the queer and trans community seeking a conversation about food, memory, and land.
FOOD PRESERVATION AND DISTRIBUTION
Project initiator: Ashim Halder Sagor and Arpita Singha Lopa
Location: Rayer Bagh, Dhaka
Artist couple Ashim Halder Sagor and Arpita Singha Lopa is producing the traditional dry/fermented pickles at home buying tropical fruits from the local market. To pack the home –made pickles, Ashim is producing special terracotta pots in his studio. While distributing the pickles the artists will ask everyone to preserve the pots. Afterwards, the neighbors will in return bring back the pots with one item of cooked food from their home to a gallery setup. The visitors will share the food as part of a live art event by the artist couple once the Covid 19 crisis is over.
Project initiator: Shahriar Shaon and team Jolputul Puppet
Project Title: Kids from the Heaven
Location: Doulatdia brothel, Rajbari
The world’s second largest brothel is situated at Doulatdia terminal in Rajbari District, where there are 1300 sex workers staying in a very poor condition. Among 1300 sex workers 1150 are legal inhabitants of this brothel. A number of children live in it, and 115 are under 7 years old and in need of milk and sugar. The artist is supplying full cream milk powder and sugar for those kids for a month in collaboration with an school inside the brothel. Collecting the tetra pack the artist will create puppets and play puppetry with his team that will be widely shared online.
Project by: Sumana Akter & Khandker Nasir Ahammed
Location: Chanmari, Chashara, Narayanganj
Since there is a crisis of some immediate food Aid in the city, the artist couple is planning to make nutritious homemade cookies for the disadvantaged slum dwellers In their neighborhood. The artists would like to create different edible shapes and objects that can be preserved as well. The process and the final product will be documented.
Project initiator: Yasmin Jahan Nupur
Project Title: Quarantine flavors
Location: Jalkuri, Narayanganj
Yasmin will virtually share the process of preservation and fermentation to a group of people and will encourage them to share with the comprehensive groups. Along with her family Yasmin is developing a vegetable garden at her home and studio. All the extra vegetables from this garden are planned to be preserved and fermented and finally will be shared to her extended families and neighbors.
Since the fermented vegetables are not popular and familiar in Bangladesh, as people love to have fresh vegetables over here, the artist is now facing trouble with the interest of the targeted people. Those who are unable to have it will be supported with the fresh vegetables instead they are interested in learning the process of the fermented food though.
The sad part is there is no drainage system to flow the water during monsoon and one day the whole area was drowned overnight. There are few dyeing factories working for the garment industries in that area. As a result of the heavy rainfall, the garden was covered with all toxic water and all the plants died. The Artist with the help of her family is trying to reconstruct the landscape and regrow the garden again.