Thursday 27th October 2022
For our second Artist Kitchen Salon as part of iniva’s Research Network programme, If Sea Is History – What is Nation?, London-based artist Holly Graham shared her recent research into histories of anti-racist community-led organising in Thamesmead and its surrounding areas in the early 1990s, undertaken in partnership with arts organisation TACO! and Thamesmead Community Archive.
This period saw a rise in racial tensions within the area but there is currently minimal documentation reflecting these rifts and the important community led responses to counteract them. Over a shared meal, devised by creative cook Safiya Robinson; Holly invited guests to consider these events in the context of a longer history of nation-building, and to explore possibilities for the shifting forms remembering can take in and out of the archive.
Using food as a starting point for tracing migratory routes, histories and storytelling, Holly contextualised this current research within the frame of previous bodies of work around links between land enclosure and expansionism, and legacies sugar and slavery*. The menu for the salon created by creative chef Safiya Robinson incorporated sugar as a key ingredient within several vegan sharing plates.
As we explored, wider history around Holly’s research investigating the formations of British history and identity, Holly seeked to question:
- How do we address traumatic histories with sensitivity and nuance in a way that makes space for grief while also not centering or sensationalising trauma?
- What are meaningful ways of revisiting the past? Is there an importance in telling these stories?
- What forms can ‘memorial’ take?
Guests were invited to actively take part in a collective conversation with others on the table while sharing plates of foods that “ground us” such as root vegetables with a choice of hot sweet condiment, Genny Graham Pepper Jelly, produced by Holly’s mum.
After a grounding mediation to digest the information shared, guests were encouraged over a sweet dessert to anonymously share their reflections on the research on postcards. These written postcards were collected to further inform Holly’s work making visible the collective histories of local communities.
*TW: This salon contained emotive imagery and storytelling which could trigger discomfort or traumatic memories and we asked guests to be mindful of yourselves and others when attending.
Holly Graham is a London-based artist, working predominantly with print and audio. Much of her work looks at ways in which memory and narrative shape collective histories. Holly holds a BFA from Oxford University and an MA in Printmaking from the Royal College of Art.
Recent solo projects include commissions with Glasgow Women’s Library, Glasgow (2022); Skelf, Online (2022); TACO!, London (2021-22); Robert Young Antiques, London (2021); Gaada, Shetland (2020); Goldsmiths CCA, Online (2020); and Southwark Park Galleries, London (2020). Holly is a Visiting Lecturer at the Royal College of Art, London; and is Co-Founder of Cypher BILLBOARD, London.
Safiya Robinson is a creative cook, writer, wellness advocate and the founder of sisterwoman vegan, a plant based social enterprise exploring wellness through food. A creative and vibrational cook , she creates plant based dishes inspired by her Black American, Jamaican and British heritage and believes that food is a healing modality, centring community, education and mindfulness in her work. With a focus on holistic wellness and mental health she creates spaces for critical food conversation and seeks to empower us all to think more critically about the food that we eat. Through supper clubs, cooking lessons, writing, events and food education, her focus is intentional nourishment. She is currently enrolled in a masters programme in the Anthropology of Food at SOAS University.
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- Frank B. Wilderson III, Afropessimism, 2020
Image credit: ACTION badge, imagery shot by Perou