topic

Crossing borders

In their global search for work, Filipinos cross borders both literal and figurative: moving from one country to another, they move across less tangible but no less real lines of social class, race, and national belonging; from “foreign” and “other” into the intimate spaces of homes and hospitals; and, often, from legal citizen to undocumented worker.


As American studies scholar Allan Punzalan Isaac notes in American Tropics: Articulating Filipino America (University of Minnesota Press, 2006), “[T]he concept of immigration (a dominant concern in Asian American studies) is historically and conceptually problematic in reference to Filipinos, who did not necessarily move through borders, but rather, borders continually enfolded them” (38). Further complicating the notion of borders, Filipinos have crossed, with varying ease, the borders of the Spain, Japan and the US under a succession of imperial flags. As national laws respond to global labor flows, Filipinos again find those borders enfolding and ejecting them in a continuous flux of legal and illegal belonging.

Litany for the Sea

Aimee Suzara

Apr 20, 2010 Poem. Courtesy of the author.

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Aimee Suzara

b. 1975
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Aimee Suzara is a Filipino-American poet, playwright, performer and educator based in Oakland. Invited as a featured artist nationally from Florida to Oregon, she is also a member of the writer’s pool for PlayGround at Berkeley Repertory Theater and a Hedgebrook residency alumnae. Her second play, A History of the Body, was awarded the East Bay Community Fund Matching Commission and a grant from National Endowment for the Arts. Her first chapbook, the space between, was nominated for the California Book Award and her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. Her full length book, SOUVENIR, is expected for publication in 2014. Suzara teaches Creative Writing at California State University at Monterey Bay. Of her work, writer Kimberly Dark has said, “Aimee is bringing themes to light that beg to be handled - race and gender, the complexities of immigration and colonization, queer lives and how we navigate our human complexities in the everyday world.”

My mission is to create, and help others create, poetic and theatrical work about race, gender, and the body to provoke dialogue and social change.

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  • Born: New York, NY, USA
  • Based: Oakland, CA, USA

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Pig Face: A Love Story (Greetings from Clark Air Base)

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

2014 Watercolor on paper 4 in. x 6 in. Courtesy of the artist.

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Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

b. 1981
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Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik is conceptual artist working with craft and food to tell the stories of migration. Sita holds a B.A. in Studio Art from Scripps College, and an M.F.A. in interdisciplinary art and an M.A. in Visual and Critical Studies from California College of the Arts. Raised in Los Angeles and based in Oakland, she is Indian and Japanese Colombian American. Sita has exhibited and collaborated in the US, Holland, Ireland, Hong Kong, and Mexico. Her projects include installing curry powder in a European castle, importing artisan goods over the US-Mexico border, and leading workshops about food, migration, and memory in Hong Kong. Her most recent project, Estamos contra el muro | We are against the wall, involved the collaborative construction of a border wall made entirely of piñatas. The East Bay Express described it as "the most joyous political critique of the year."
 
Sita is also a co-founder of the People's Kitchen Collective (PKC), who were named in 2016's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ YBCA 100 list. They are recipients of the Center for Asian American Media’s (CAAM) Advocate Award and were awarded support by the Kenneth Rainin Foundation Open Spaces Program. PKC recently exhibited with For Freedoms, the first artist-run super PAC at Jack Shainman Gallery in New York and at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center's Crosslines pop-up museum. The goal of The People's Kitchen is to not only fill our stomachs but also nourish our souls, feed our minds and fuel a movement.
 
See also peopleskitchencollective.com.

Photo credit: Rachyel Magana



 

For the Love/Hate of Curry

A golden, aromatic spice blend that is prized by some and reviled by others, curry powder is a polarizing substance. Over the past five years I have used it as a dye, perfume, and pigment in my art practice. But I rarely eat the bottled stuff.

What, exactly, is curry? It is a delicious dish and an inadequate word. As food historian Thy Tran once told me, it is a word that falls short because it attempts to use the language of the colonizer to describe the many foods of the colonized. The first reference to curry powder was published in Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1961), a book to aid British housewives in the particulars of maintaining a proper home in the colonies. I began to trace my own history through an alternative spice route. Being Indian and Japanese Colombian American, we ate curry all the time in our house. Indian cooks don’t usually use curry powder--but my mother, who is Colombian-born Japanese, made the kind that came out of a box. She mixed it with chicken, carrots and potatoes to create one of my favorite meals (coincidentally, the most popular brand of curry powder happens to be my initials, “S&B” and so I took it as a sign that I was meant to work with the material). Why does Japan’s #1 dish come from a package? Japan was introduced to curry by the British who made a roux of flour and fat with the spice blend. The Indian varieties? Those were more difficult to define. My father is from a small village outside of Kolkata. I still have no idea what is and isn’t a “curry.” Neither does my family. It’s just food in sauce – but it’s so much more.

After my first installation with curry powder in 2008, I searched the phrase “smells like curry” online. I suppose I expected to find a racist joke or two and a few recipes. Instead, I found thousands of entries referring to the way Indian people smelled. The one I will always remember was a posting on Yahoo! Answers:

Q: Help, my neighbor’s house smells like curry.
A: Call the INS.

I became obsessed with this anonymous entry. For the first time I realized that race is constructed by more than what we see.

Over the next few years I sprinkled curry powder through the streets of Oakland, opened a Curry Institute (2011) at Whitman College, where visitors could chart their own Curry Cartography, and worked with perfumer Yosh Han to create a curry perfume called Gilt (2010) just because I wanted everyone to have the right to smell like curry. Eventually the spice pieces made their way onto the walls themselves.

Although my ingredients span the globe, I always source my materials from family-owned businesses. I had been purchasing ingredients from Bombay Bazaar, a hidden grocery store that had closed and re-opened in San Francisco’s wildly gentrifying Mission district. The last time I went in to say hello, the store had disappeared. Shelves, fluorescent lighting, and all. It is with the last batch of spices purchased at this shop that I created Dear Indian Grocery Store both in the bathroom of 18 Reasons in San Francisco and at the San Jose Museum of Art in November 2013. Feeling yet another loss in a city I recognize less and less, I wrote an open letter to the grocery store. This letter always accompanies the installation. As with my previous installations, the excess curry powder collected from the installation will be used to dye napkins and tablecloths for a sliding-scale community dinner. The curry powder is reserved for the art - it is rarely used in the cooking of the meal.

Most Indian cooks would never be caught with curry powder in their kitchens - it limits the complexity and variety of a dish. This powder is India concentrate. This is the myth we expect in Indian supermarkets, restaurants, and, yes, even people. But this complicated blend has also been transformed into the unique flavors of comfort all over the world.

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  • Born: Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • Based: Oakland, CA, USA

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Pig Face: A Love Story (1493)

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

2014 Watercolor on paper 6 in. x 9 in. Courtesy of the artist.

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Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

b. 1981
image description
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Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik is conceptual artist working with craft and food to tell the stories of migration. Sita holds a B.A. in Studio Art from Scripps College, and an M.F.A. in interdisciplinary art and an M.A. in Visual and Critical Studies from California College of the Arts. Raised in Los Angeles and based in Oakland, she is Indian and Japanese Colombian American. Sita has exhibited and collaborated in the US, Holland, Ireland, Hong Kong, and Mexico. Her projects include installing curry powder in a European castle, importing artisan goods over the US-Mexico border, and leading workshops about food, migration, and memory in Hong Kong. Her most recent project, Estamos contra el muro | We are against the wall, involved the collaborative construction of a border wall made entirely of piñatas. The East Bay Express described it as "the most joyous political critique of the year."
 
Sita is also a co-founder of the People's Kitchen Collective (PKC), who were named in 2016's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ YBCA 100 list. They are recipients of the Center for Asian American Media’s (CAAM) Advocate Award and were awarded support by the Kenneth Rainin Foundation Open Spaces Program. PKC recently exhibited with For Freedoms, the first artist-run super PAC at Jack Shainman Gallery in New York and at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center's Crosslines pop-up museum. The goal of The People's Kitchen is to not only fill our stomachs but also nourish our souls, feed our minds and fuel a movement.
 
See also peopleskitchencollective.com.

Photo credit: Rachyel Magana



 

For the Love/Hate of Curry

A golden, aromatic spice blend that is prized by some and reviled by others, curry powder is a polarizing substance. Over the past five years I have used it as a dye, perfume, and pigment in my art practice. But I rarely eat the bottled stuff.

What, exactly, is curry? It is a delicious dish and an inadequate word. As food historian Thy Tran once told me, it is a word that falls short because it attempts to use the language of the colonizer to describe the many foods of the colonized. The first reference to curry powder was published in Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1961), a book to aid British housewives in the particulars of maintaining a proper home in the colonies. I began to trace my own history through an alternative spice route. Being Indian and Japanese Colombian American, we ate curry all the time in our house. Indian cooks don’t usually use curry powder--but my mother, who is Colombian-born Japanese, made the kind that came out of a box. She mixed it with chicken, carrots and potatoes to create one of my favorite meals (coincidentally, the most popular brand of curry powder happens to be my initials, “S&B” and so I took it as a sign that I was meant to work with the material). Why does Japan’s #1 dish come from a package? Japan was introduced to curry by the British who made a roux of flour and fat with the spice blend. The Indian varieties? Those were more difficult to define. My father is from a small village outside of Kolkata. I still have no idea what is and isn’t a “curry.” Neither does my family. It’s just food in sauce – but it’s so much more.

After my first installation with curry powder in 2008, I searched the phrase “smells like curry” online. I suppose I expected to find a racist joke or two and a few recipes. Instead, I found thousands of entries referring to the way Indian people smelled. The one I will always remember was a posting on Yahoo! Answers:

Q: Help, my neighbor’s house smells like curry.
A: Call the INS.

I became obsessed with this anonymous entry. For the first time I realized that race is constructed by more than what we see.

Over the next few years I sprinkled curry powder through the streets of Oakland, opened a Curry Institute (2011) at Whitman College, where visitors could chart their own Curry Cartography, and worked with perfumer Yosh Han to create a curry perfume called Gilt (2010) just because I wanted everyone to have the right to smell like curry. Eventually the spice pieces made their way onto the walls themselves.

Although my ingredients span the globe, I always source my materials from family-owned businesses. I had been purchasing ingredients from Bombay Bazaar, a hidden grocery store that had closed and re-opened in San Francisco’s wildly gentrifying Mission district. The last time I went in to say hello, the store had disappeared. Shelves, fluorescent lighting, and all. It is with the last batch of spices purchased at this shop that I created Dear Indian Grocery Store both in the bathroom of 18 Reasons in San Francisco and at the San Jose Museum of Art in November 2013. Feeling yet another loss in a city I recognize less and less, I wrote an open letter to the grocery store. This letter always accompanies the installation. As with my previous installations, the excess curry powder collected from the installation will be used to dye napkins and tablecloths for a sliding-scale community dinner. The curry powder is reserved for the art - it is rarely used in the cooking of the meal.

Most Indian cooks would never be caught with curry powder in their kitchens - it limits the complexity and variety of a dish. This powder is India concentrate. This is the myth we expect in Indian supermarkets, restaurants, and, yes, even people. But this complicated blend has also been transformed into the unique flavors of comfort all over the world.

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  • Born: Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • Based: Oakland, CA, USA

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Pig Face: A Love Story (Francisco)

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

2014 Watercolor on paper 9 in. x 12 in. Courtesy of the artist.

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Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

b. 1981
image description
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Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik is conceptual artist working with craft and food to tell the stories of migration. Sita holds a B.A. in Studio Art from Scripps College, and an M.F.A. in interdisciplinary art and an M.A. in Visual and Critical Studies from California College of the Arts. Raised in Los Angeles and based in Oakland, she is Indian and Japanese Colombian American. Sita has exhibited and collaborated in the US, Holland, Ireland, Hong Kong, and Mexico. Her projects include installing curry powder in a European castle, importing artisan goods over the US-Mexico border, and leading workshops about food, migration, and memory in Hong Kong. Her most recent project, Estamos contra el muro | We are against the wall, involved the collaborative construction of a border wall made entirely of piñatas. The East Bay Express described it as "the most joyous political critique of the year."
 
Sita is also a co-founder of the People's Kitchen Collective (PKC), who were named in 2016's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ YBCA 100 list. They are recipients of the Center for Asian American Media’s (CAAM) Advocate Award and were awarded support by the Kenneth Rainin Foundation Open Spaces Program. PKC recently exhibited with For Freedoms, the first artist-run super PAC at Jack Shainman Gallery in New York and at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center's Crosslines pop-up museum. The goal of The People's Kitchen is to not only fill our stomachs but also nourish our souls, feed our minds and fuel a movement.
 
See also peopleskitchencollective.com.

Photo credit: Rachyel Magana



 

For the Love/Hate of Curry

A golden, aromatic spice blend that is prized by some and reviled by others, curry powder is a polarizing substance. Over the past five years I have used it as a dye, perfume, and pigment in my art practice. But I rarely eat the bottled stuff.

What, exactly, is curry? It is a delicious dish and an inadequate word. As food historian Thy Tran once told me, it is a word that falls short because it attempts to use the language of the colonizer to describe the many foods of the colonized. The first reference to curry powder was published in Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1961), a book to aid British housewives in the particulars of maintaining a proper home in the colonies. I began to trace my own history through an alternative spice route. Being Indian and Japanese Colombian American, we ate curry all the time in our house. Indian cooks don’t usually use curry powder--but my mother, who is Colombian-born Japanese, made the kind that came out of a box. She mixed it with chicken, carrots and potatoes to create one of my favorite meals (coincidentally, the most popular brand of curry powder happens to be my initials, “S&B” and so I took it as a sign that I was meant to work with the material). Why does Japan’s #1 dish come from a package? Japan was introduced to curry by the British who made a roux of flour and fat with the spice blend. The Indian varieties? Those were more difficult to define. My father is from a small village outside of Kolkata. I still have no idea what is and isn’t a “curry.” Neither does my family. It’s just food in sauce – but it’s so much more.

After my first installation with curry powder in 2008, I searched the phrase “smells like curry” online. I suppose I expected to find a racist joke or two and a few recipes. Instead, I found thousands of entries referring to the way Indian people smelled. The one I will always remember was a posting on Yahoo! Answers:

Q: Help, my neighbor’s house smells like curry.
A: Call the INS.

I became obsessed with this anonymous entry. For the first time I realized that race is constructed by more than what we see.

Over the next few years I sprinkled curry powder through the streets of Oakland, opened a Curry Institute (2011) at Whitman College, where visitors could chart their own Curry Cartography, and worked with perfumer Yosh Han to create a curry perfume called Gilt (2010) just because I wanted everyone to have the right to smell like curry. Eventually the spice pieces made their way onto the walls themselves.

Although my ingredients span the globe, I always source my materials from family-owned businesses. I had been purchasing ingredients from Bombay Bazaar, a hidden grocery store that had closed and re-opened in San Francisco’s wildly gentrifying Mission district. The last time I went in to say hello, the store had disappeared. Shelves, fluorescent lighting, and all. It is with the last batch of spices purchased at this shop that I created Dear Indian Grocery Store both in the bathroom of 18 Reasons in San Francisco and at the San Jose Museum of Art in November 2013. Feeling yet another loss in a city I recognize less and less, I wrote an open letter to the grocery store. This letter always accompanies the installation. As with my previous installations, the excess curry powder collected from the installation will be used to dye napkins and tablecloths for a sliding-scale community dinner. The curry powder is reserved for the art - it is rarely used in the cooking of the meal.

Most Indian cooks would never be caught with curry powder in their kitchens - it limits the complexity and variety of a dish. This powder is India concentrate. This is the myth we expect in Indian supermarkets, restaurants, and, yes, even people. But this complicated blend has also been transformed into the unique flavors of comfort all over the world.

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X
  • Born: Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • Based: Oakland, CA, USA

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X

Immigrant Lives and the Politics of Olfaction in the Global City

Martin F. Manalansan IV

2006 Criticism. 11 pages. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Academic Press.

The Smell Culture Reader (ed. Jim Drobnick), p.41-52.

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Martin F. Manalansan IV

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Born and raised in the Philippines, Manalansan studied philosophy and anthropology at the University of the Philippines and did graduate studies in sociocultural anthropology at Syracuse University and the University of Rochester, both in New York State. He is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign, and he lives in the windy city of Chicago. 

Interested in the intersection of media, popular culture, everyday life, emotions, and forms of bodily experiences, he enjoys the freedom of tenure by indulging in broad undisciplined pedagogical pursuits and research trajectories.  From food to queer issues, urban space to movies, his shifting archives reflect his non-allegiance to disciplinary concerns, although he maintains a deep seated and long-standing admiration for and dedication to the ethnographic method.

He is the author of Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora (Duke University Press, 2003; Ateneo University Press 2006) and editor or co-editor of four anthologies, most recently Eating Asian America: A Food Studies Reader (New York University Press, 2013), as well as several journal special issues. His forthcoming book entitled Queer Dwellings examines the affective landscapes, ethical lives, and embodied experiences of undocumented queer immigrants living under precarious conditions. The enduring issues that animate and fuel his intellectual pursuits include social justice, embodiment, quotidian life, ordinary meanings, modes of desire and habitation.

While based in the Midwest, Manalansan maintains emotional and intellectual ties to two other cities: New York and Manila. One day, he hopes to find himself in a position to be able to live in both cities at different times of the year. In the meantime, he is content to question, marvel and ironically enjoy the fictions and myths of the American heartland.

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  • Born: The Philippines
  • Based: Chicago, IL, USA

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To Curry Favor

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

2011 Curry powder from Oasis Food Market in Oakland, CA on gallery wall. Courtesy of the artist. Begovich Gallery, California State University, Fullerton

contributor

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Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

b. 1981
image description
  • See All Works
  • visit website

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik is conceptual artist working with craft and food to tell the stories of migration. Sita holds a B.A. in Studio Art from Scripps College, and an M.F.A. in interdisciplinary art and an M.A. in Visual and Critical Studies from California College of the Arts. Raised in Los Angeles and based in Oakland, she is Indian and Japanese Colombian American. Sita has exhibited and collaborated in the US, Holland, Ireland, Hong Kong, and Mexico. Her projects include installing curry powder in a European castle, importing artisan goods over the US-Mexico border, and leading workshops about food, migration, and memory in Hong Kong. Her most recent project, Estamos contra el muro | We are against the wall, involved the collaborative construction of a border wall made entirely of piñatas. The East Bay Express described it as "the most joyous political critique of the year."
 
Sita is also a co-founder of the People's Kitchen Collective (PKC), who were named in 2016's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ YBCA 100 list. They are recipients of the Center for Asian American Media’s (CAAM) Advocate Award and were awarded support by the Kenneth Rainin Foundation Open Spaces Program. PKC recently exhibited with For Freedoms, the first artist-run super PAC at Jack Shainman Gallery in New York and at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center's Crosslines pop-up museum. The goal of The People's Kitchen is to not only fill our stomachs but also nourish our souls, feed our minds and fuel a movement.
 
See also peopleskitchencollective.com.

Photo credit: Rachyel Magana



 

For the Love/Hate of Curry

A golden, aromatic spice blend that is prized by some and reviled by others, curry powder is a polarizing substance. Over the past five years I have used it as a dye, perfume, and pigment in my art practice. But I rarely eat the bottled stuff.

What, exactly, is curry? It is a delicious dish and an inadequate word. As food historian Thy Tran once told me, it is a word that falls short because it attempts to use the language of the colonizer to describe the many foods of the colonized. The first reference to curry powder was published in Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1961), a book to aid British housewives in the particulars of maintaining a proper home in the colonies. I began to trace my own history through an alternative spice route. Being Indian and Japanese Colombian American, we ate curry all the time in our house. Indian cooks don’t usually use curry powder--but my mother, who is Colombian-born Japanese, made the kind that came out of a box. She mixed it with chicken, carrots and potatoes to create one of my favorite meals (coincidentally, the most popular brand of curry powder happens to be my initials, “S&B” and so I took it as a sign that I was meant to work with the material). Why does Japan’s #1 dish come from a package? Japan was introduced to curry by the British who made a roux of flour and fat with the spice blend. The Indian varieties? Those were more difficult to define. My father is from a small village outside of Kolkata. I still have no idea what is and isn’t a “curry.” Neither does my family. It’s just food in sauce – but it’s so much more.

After my first installation with curry powder in 2008, I searched the phrase “smells like curry” online. I suppose I expected to find a racist joke or two and a few recipes. Instead, I found thousands of entries referring to the way Indian people smelled. The one I will always remember was a posting on Yahoo! Answers:

Q: Help, my neighbor’s house smells like curry.
A: Call the INS.

I became obsessed with this anonymous entry. For the first time I realized that race is constructed by more than what we see.

Over the next few years I sprinkled curry powder through the streets of Oakland, opened a Curry Institute (2011) at Whitman College, where visitors could chart their own Curry Cartography, and worked with perfumer Yosh Han to create a curry perfume called Gilt (2010) just because I wanted everyone to have the right to smell like curry. Eventually the spice pieces made their way onto the walls themselves.

Although my ingredients span the globe, I always source my materials from family-owned businesses. I had been purchasing ingredients from Bombay Bazaar, a hidden grocery store that had closed and re-opened in San Francisco’s wildly gentrifying Mission district. The last time I went in to say hello, the store had disappeared. Shelves, fluorescent lighting, and all. It is with the last batch of spices purchased at this shop that I created Dear Indian Grocery Store both in the bathroom of 18 Reasons in San Francisco and at the San Jose Museum of Art in November 2013. Feeling yet another loss in a city I recognize less and less, I wrote an open letter to the grocery store. This letter always accompanies the installation. As with my previous installations, the excess curry powder collected from the installation will be used to dye napkins and tablecloths for a sliding-scale community dinner. The curry powder is reserved for the art - it is rarely used in the cooking of the meal.

Most Indian cooks would never be caught with curry powder in their kitchens - it limits the complexity and variety of a dish. This powder is India concentrate. This is the myth we expect in Indian supermarkets, restaurants, and, yes, even people. But this complicated blend has also been transformed into the unique flavors of comfort all over the world.

location

X
  • Born: Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • Based: Oakland, CA, USA

comments

X

Dear Indian Grocery Store under the Freeway

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

2013 Turmeric and cardamom on paper, mehendi stencils, paint, text. Variable dimensions. Courtesy of the artist.

contributor

X

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

b. 1981
image description
  • See All Works
  • visit website

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik is conceptual artist working with craft and food to tell the stories of migration. Sita holds a B.A. in Studio Art from Scripps College, and an M.F.A. in interdisciplinary art and an M.A. in Visual and Critical Studies from California College of the Arts. Raised in Los Angeles and based in Oakland, she is Indian and Japanese Colombian American. Sita has exhibited and collaborated in the US, Holland, Ireland, Hong Kong, and Mexico. Her projects include installing curry powder in a European castle, importing artisan goods over the US-Mexico border, and leading workshops about food, migration, and memory in Hong Kong. Her most recent project, Estamos contra el muro | We are against the wall, involved the collaborative construction of a border wall made entirely of piñatas. The East Bay Express described it as "the most joyous political critique of the year."
 
Sita is also a co-founder of the People's Kitchen Collective (PKC), who were named in 2016's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ YBCA 100 list. They are recipients of the Center for Asian American Media’s (CAAM) Advocate Award and were awarded support by the Kenneth Rainin Foundation Open Spaces Program. PKC recently exhibited with For Freedoms, the first artist-run super PAC at Jack Shainman Gallery in New York and at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center's Crosslines pop-up museum. The goal of The People's Kitchen is to not only fill our stomachs but also nourish our souls, feed our minds and fuel a movement.
 
See also peopleskitchencollective.com.

Photo credit: Rachyel Magana



 

For the Love/Hate of Curry

A golden, aromatic spice blend that is prized by some and reviled by others, curry powder is a polarizing substance. Over the past five years I have used it as a dye, perfume, and pigment in my art practice. But I rarely eat the bottled stuff.

What, exactly, is curry? It is a delicious dish and an inadequate word. As food historian Thy Tran once told me, it is a word that falls short because it attempts to use the language of the colonizer to describe the many foods of the colonized. The first reference to curry powder was published in Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1961), a book to aid British housewives in the particulars of maintaining a proper home in the colonies. I began to trace my own history through an alternative spice route. Being Indian and Japanese Colombian American, we ate curry all the time in our house. Indian cooks don’t usually use curry powder--but my mother, who is Colombian-born Japanese, made the kind that came out of a box. She mixed it with chicken, carrots and potatoes to create one of my favorite meals (coincidentally, the most popular brand of curry powder happens to be my initials, “S&B” and so I took it as a sign that I was meant to work with the material). Why does Japan’s #1 dish come from a package? Japan was introduced to curry by the British who made a roux of flour and fat with the spice blend. The Indian varieties? Those were more difficult to define. My father is from a small village outside of Kolkata. I still have no idea what is and isn’t a “curry.” Neither does my family. It’s just food in sauce – but it’s so much more.

After my first installation with curry powder in 2008, I searched the phrase “smells like curry” online. I suppose I expected to find a racist joke or two and a few recipes. Instead, I found thousands of entries referring to the way Indian people smelled. The one I will always remember was a posting on Yahoo! Answers:

Q: Help, my neighbor’s house smells like curry.
A: Call the INS.

I became obsessed with this anonymous entry. For the first time I realized that race is constructed by more than what we see.

Over the next few years I sprinkled curry powder through the streets of Oakland, opened a Curry Institute (2011) at Whitman College, where visitors could chart their own Curry Cartography, and worked with perfumer Yosh Han to create a curry perfume called Gilt (2010) just because I wanted everyone to have the right to smell like curry. Eventually the spice pieces made their way onto the walls themselves.

Although my ingredients span the globe, I always source my materials from family-owned businesses. I had been purchasing ingredients from Bombay Bazaar, a hidden grocery store that had closed and re-opened in San Francisco’s wildly gentrifying Mission district. The last time I went in to say hello, the store had disappeared. Shelves, fluorescent lighting, and all. It is with the last batch of spices purchased at this shop that I created Dear Indian Grocery Store both in the bathroom of 18 Reasons in San Francisco and at the San Jose Museum of Art in November 2013. Feeling yet another loss in a city I recognize less and less, I wrote an open letter to the grocery store. This letter always accompanies the installation. As with my previous installations, the excess curry powder collected from the installation will be used to dye napkins and tablecloths for a sliding-scale community dinner. The curry powder is reserved for the art - it is rarely used in the cooking of the meal.

Most Indian cooks would never be caught with curry powder in their kitchens - it limits the complexity and variety of a dish. This powder is India concentrate. This is the myth we expect in Indian supermarkets, restaurants, and, yes, even people. But this complicated blend has also been transformed into the unique flavors of comfort all over the world.

location

X
  • Born: Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • Based: Oakland, CA, USA

comments

X

Dear Indian Grocery Store under the Freeway

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

2013 Turmeric and cardamom on paper, mehendi stencils, paint, text. Variable dimensions. Courtesy of the artist.

contributor

X

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

b. 1981
image description
  • See All Works
  • visit website

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik is conceptual artist working with craft and food to tell the stories of migration. Sita holds a B.A. in Studio Art from Scripps College, and an M.F.A. in interdisciplinary art and an M.A. in Visual and Critical Studies from California College of the Arts. Raised in Los Angeles and based in Oakland, she is Indian and Japanese Colombian American. Sita has exhibited and collaborated in the US, Holland, Ireland, Hong Kong, and Mexico. Her projects include installing curry powder in a European castle, importing artisan goods over the US-Mexico border, and leading workshops about food, migration, and memory in Hong Kong. Her most recent project, Estamos contra el muro | We are against the wall, involved the collaborative construction of a border wall made entirely of piñatas. The East Bay Express described it as "the most joyous political critique of the year."
 
Sita is also a co-founder of the People's Kitchen Collective (PKC), who were named in 2016's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ YBCA 100 list. They are recipients of the Center for Asian American Media’s (CAAM) Advocate Award and were awarded support by the Kenneth Rainin Foundation Open Spaces Program. PKC recently exhibited with For Freedoms, the first artist-run super PAC at Jack Shainman Gallery in New York and at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center's Crosslines pop-up museum. The goal of The People's Kitchen is to not only fill our stomachs but also nourish our souls, feed our minds and fuel a movement.
 
See also peopleskitchencollective.com.

Photo credit: Rachyel Magana



 

For the Love/Hate of Curry

A golden, aromatic spice blend that is prized by some and reviled by others, curry powder is a polarizing substance. Over the past five years I have used it as a dye, perfume, and pigment in my art practice. But I rarely eat the bottled stuff.

What, exactly, is curry? It is a delicious dish and an inadequate word. As food historian Thy Tran once told me, it is a word that falls short because it attempts to use the language of the colonizer to describe the many foods of the colonized. The first reference to curry powder was published in Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1961), a book to aid British housewives in the particulars of maintaining a proper home in the colonies. I began to trace my own history through an alternative spice route. Being Indian and Japanese Colombian American, we ate curry all the time in our house. Indian cooks don’t usually use curry powder--but my mother, who is Colombian-born Japanese, made the kind that came out of a box. She mixed it with chicken, carrots and potatoes to create one of my favorite meals (coincidentally, the most popular brand of curry powder happens to be my initials, “S&B” and so I took it as a sign that I was meant to work with the material). Why does Japan’s #1 dish come from a package? Japan was introduced to curry by the British who made a roux of flour and fat with the spice blend. The Indian varieties? Those were more difficult to define. My father is from a small village outside of Kolkata. I still have no idea what is and isn’t a “curry.” Neither does my family. It’s just food in sauce – but it’s so much more.

After my first installation with curry powder in 2008, I searched the phrase “smells like curry” online. I suppose I expected to find a racist joke or two and a few recipes. Instead, I found thousands of entries referring to the way Indian people smelled. The one I will always remember was a posting on Yahoo! Answers:

Q: Help, my neighbor’s house smells like curry.
A: Call the INS.

I became obsessed with this anonymous entry. For the first time I realized that race is constructed by more than what we see.

Over the next few years I sprinkled curry powder through the streets of Oakland, opened a Curry Institute (2011) at Whitman College, where visitors could chart their own Curry Cartography, and worked with perfumer Yosh Han to create a curry perfume called Gilt (2010) just because I wanted everyone to have the right to smell like curry. Eventually the spice pieces made their way onto the walls themselves.

Although my ingredients span the globe, I always source my materials from family-owned businesses. I had been purchasing ingredients from Bombay Bazaar, a hidden grocery store that had closed and re-opened in San Francisco’s wildly gentrifying Mission district. The last time I went in to say hello, the store had disappeared. Shelves, fluorescent lighting, and all. It is with the last batch of spices purchased at this shop that I created Dear Indian Grocery Store both in the bathroom of 18 Reasons in San Francisco and at the San Jose Museum of Art in November 2013. Feeling yet another loss in a city I recognize less and less, I wrote an open letter to the grocery store. This letter always accompanies the installation. As with my previous installations, the excess curry powder collected from the installation will be used to dye napkins and tablecloths for a sliding-scale community dinner. The curry powder is reserved for the art - it is rarely used in the cooking of the meal.

Most Indian cooks would never be caught with curry powder in their kitchens - it limits the complexity and variety of a dish. This powder is India concentrate. This is the myth we expect in Indian supermarkets, restaurants, and, yes, even people. But this complicated blend has also been transformed into the unique flavors of comfort all over the world.

location

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  • Born: Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • Based: Oakland, CA, USA

comments

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Dear Indian Grocery Store under the Freeway

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

2013 Turmeric and cardamom on paper, mehendi stencils, paint, text. Variable dimensions. Courtesy of the artist.

contributor

X

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

b. 1981
image description
  • See All Works
  • visit website

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik is conceptual artist working with craft and food to tell the stories of migration. Sita holds a B.A. in Studio Art from Scripps College, and an M.F.A. in interdisciplinary art and an M.A. in Visual and Critical Studies from California College of the Arts. Raised in Los Angeles and based in Oakland, she is Indian and Japanese Colombian American. Sita has exhibited and collaborated in the US, Holland, Ireland, Hong Kong, and Mexico. Her projects include installing curry powder in a European castle, importing artisan goods over the US-Mexico border, and leading workshops about food, migration, and memory in Hong Kong. Her most recent project, Estamos contra el muro | We are against the wall, involved the collaborative construction of a border wall made entirely of piñatas. The East Bay Express described it as "the most joyous political critique of the year."
 
Sita is also a co-founder of the People's Kitchen Collective (PKC), who were named in 2016's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ YBCA 100 list. They are recipients of the Center for Asian American Media’s (CAAM) Advocate Award and were awarded support by the Kenneth Rainin Foundation Open Spaces Program. PKC recently exhibited with For Freedoms, the first artist-run super PAC at Jack Shainman Gallery in New York and at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center's Crosslines pop-up museum. The goal of The People's Kitchen is to not only fill our stomachs but also nourish our souls, feed our minds and fuel a movement.
 
See also peopleskitchencollective.com.

Photo credit: Rachyel Magana



 

For the Love/Hate of Curry

A golden, aromatic spice blend that is prized by some and reviled by others, curry powder is a polarizing substance. Over the past five years I have used it as a dye, perfume, and pigment in my art practice. But I rarely eat the bottled stuff.

What, exactly, is curry? It is a delicious dish and an inadequate word. As food historian Thy Tran once told me, it is a word that falls short because it attempts to use the language of the colonizer to describe the many foods of the colonized. The first reference to curry powder was published in Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1961), a book to aid British housewives in the particulars of maintaining a proper home in the colonies. I began to trace my own history through an alternative spice route. Being Indian and Japanese Colombian American, we ate curry all the time in our house. Indian cooks don’t usually use curry powder--but my mother, who is Colombian-born Japanese, made the kind that came out of a box. She mixed it with chicken, carrots and potatoes to create one of my favorite meals (coincidentally, the most popular brand of curry powder happens to be my initials, “S&B” and so I took it as a sign that I was meant to work with the material). Why does Japan’s #1 dish come from a package? Japan was introduced to curry by the British who made a roux of flour and fat with the spice blend. The Indian varieties? Those were more difficult to define. My father is from a small village outside of Kolkata. I still have no idea what is and isn’t a “curry.” Neither does my family. It’s just food in sauce – but it’s so much more.

After my first installation with curry powder in 2008, I searched the phrase “smells like curry” online. I suppose I expected to find a racist joke or two and a few recipes. Instead, I found thousands of entries referring to the way Indian people smelled. The one I will always remember was a posting on Yahoo! Answers:

Q: Help, my neighbor’s house smells like curry.
A: Call the INS.

I became obsessed with this anonymous entry. For the first time I realized that race is constructed by more than what we see.

Over the next few years I sprinkled curry powder through the streets of Oakland, opened a Curry Institute (2011) at Whitman College, where visitors could chart their own Curry Cartography, and worked with perfumer Yosh Han to create a curry perfume called Gilt (2010) just because I wanted everyone to have the right to smell like curry. Eventually the spice pieces made their way onto the walls themselves.

Although my ingredients span the globe, I always source my materials from family-owned businesses. I had been purchasing ingredients from Bombay Bazaar, a hidden grocery store that had closed and re-opened in San Francisco’s wildly gentrifying Mission district. The last time I went in to say hello, the store had disappeared. Shelves, fluorescent lighting, and all. It is with the last batch of spices purchased at this shop that I created Dear Indian Grocery Store both in the bathroom of 18 Reasons in San Francisco and at the San Jose Museum of Art in November 2013. Feeling yet another loss in a city I recognize less and less, I wrote an open letter to the grocery store. This letter always accompanies the installation. As with my previous installations, the excess curry powder collected from the installation will be used to dye napkins and tablecloths for a sliding-scale community dinner. The curry powder is reserved for the art - it is rarely used in the cooking of the meal.

Most Indian cooks would never be caught with curry powder in their kitchens - it limits the complexity and variety of a dish. This powder is India concentrate. This is the myth we expect in Indian supermarkets, restaurants, and, yes, even people. But this complicated blend has also been transformed into the unique flavors of comfort all over the world.

location

X
  • Born: Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • Based: Oakland, CA, USA

comments

X

Dear Indian Grocery Store under the Freeway

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

2013 Turmeric and cardamom on paper, mehendi stencils, paint, text. Variable dimensions. Courtesy of the artist.

contributor

X

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

b. 1981
image description
  • See All Works
  • visit website

Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik is conceptual artist working with craft and food to tell the stories of migration. Sita holds a B.A. in Studio Art from Scripps College, and an M.F.A. in interdisciplinary art and an M.A. in Visual and Critical Studies from California College of the Arts. Raised in Los Angeles and based in Oakland, she is Indian and Japanese Colombian American. Sita has exhibited and collaborated in the US, Holland, Ireland, Hong Kong, and Mexico. Her projects include installing curry powder in a European castle, importing artisan goods over the US-Mexico border, and leading workshops about food, migration, and memory in Hong Kong. Her most recent project, Estamos contra el muro | We are against the wall, involved the collaborative construction of a border wall made entirely of piñatas. The East Bay Express described it as "the most joyous political critique of the year."
 
Sita is also a co-founder of the People's Kitchen Collective (PKC), who were named in 2016's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ YBCA 100 list. They are recipients of the Center for Asian American Media’s (CAAM) Advocate Award and were awarded support by the Kenneth Rainin Foundation Open Spaces Program. PKC recently exhibited with For Freedoms, the first artist-run super PAC at Jack Shainman Gallery in New York and at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center's Crosslines pop-up museum. The goal of The People's Kitchen is to not only fill our stomachs but also nourish our souls, feed our minds and fuel a movement.
 
See also peopleskitchencollective.com.

Photo credit: Rachyel Magana



 

For the Love/Hate of Curry

A golden, aromatic spice blend that is prized by some and reviled by others, curry powder is a polarizing substance. Over the past five years I have used it as a dye, perfume, and pigment in my art practice. But I rarely eat the bottled stuff.

What, exactly, is curry? It is a delicious dish and an inadequate word. As food historian Thy Tran once told me, it is a word that falls short because it attempts to use the language of the colonizer to describe the many foods of the colonized. The first reference to curry powder was published in Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1961), a book to aid British housewives in the particulars of maintaining a proper home in the colonies. I began to trace my own history through an alternative spice route. Being Indian and Japanese Colombian American, we ate curry all the time in our house. Indian cooks don’t usually use curry powder--but my mother, who is Colombian-born Japanese, made the kind that came out of a box. She mixed it with chicken, carrots and potatoes to create one of my favorite meals (coincidentally, the most popular brand of curry powder happens to be my initials, “S&B” and so I took it as a sign that I was meant to work with the material). Why does Japan’s #1 dish come from a package? Japan was introduced to curry by the British who made a roux of flour and fat with the spice blend. The Indian varieties? Those were more difficult to define. My father is from a small village outside of Kolkata. I still have no idea what is and isn’t a “curry.” Neither does my family. It’s just food in sauce – but it’s so much more.

After my first installation with curry powder in 2008, I searched the phrase “smells like curry” online. I suppose I expected to find a racist joke or two and a few recipes. Instead, I found thousands of entries referring to the way Indian people smelled. The one I will always remember was a posting on Yahoo! Answers:

Q: Help, my neighbor’s house smells like curry.
A: Call the INS.

I became obsessed with this anonymous entry. For the first time I realized that race is constructed by more than what we see.

Over the next few years I sprinkled curry powder through the streets of Oakland, opened a Curry Institute (2011) at Whitman College, where visitors could chart their own Curry Cartography, and worked with perfumer Yosh Han to create a curry perfume called Gilt (2010) just because I wanted everyone to have the right to smell like curry. Eventually the spice pieces made their way onto the walls themselves.

Although my ingredients span the globe, I always source my materials from family-owned businesses. I had been purchasing ingredients from Bombay Bazaar, a hidden grocery store that had closed and re-opened in San Francisco’s wildly gentrifying Mission district. The last time I went in to say hello, the store had disappeared. Shelves, fluorescent lighting, and all. It is with the last batch of spices purchased at this shop that I created Dear Indian Grocery Store both in the bathroom of 18 Reasons in San Francisco and at the San Jose Museum of Art in November 2013. Feeling yet another loss in a city I recognize less and less, I wrote an open letter to the grocery store. This letter always accompanies the installation. As with my previous installations, the excess curry powder collected from the installation will be used to dye napkins and tablecloths for a sliding-scale community dinner. The curry powder is reserved for the art - it is rarely used in the cooking of the meal.

Most Indian cooks would never be caught with curry powder in their kitchens - it limits the complexity and variety of a dish. This powder is India concentrate. This is the myth we expect in Indian supermarkets, restaurants, and, yes, even people. But this complicated blend has also been transformed into the unique flavors of comfort all over the world.

location

X
  • Born: Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • Based: Oakland, CA, USA

comments

X