Geneva exhibition casts critical gaze on food

Updated 20 December 2012
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Geneva exhibition casts critical gaze on food

A contemporary art show opening this week in Geneva aims to spark a dialogue on man’s intricate relationship with food in a world where nearly a billion people are undernourished, the curator said Tuesday.
“The relationship we have with food is much more complex and important than the simple connection to gastronomy,” Adelina von Fuerstenberg said in her introduction to the exhibit “FOOD,” that opened at the Ariana Museum yesterday.
Through the works of 27 artists from around the world, the traveling exhibition, which debuted in Geneva before moving on to Milan, Sao Paulo and Marseille and then back to Milan to take part in the 2015 World Expo, displays a range of issues related to food, including over-consumption and hunger.
“Every five seconds, a child under the age of 10 starves to death,” von Fuerstenberg said, pointing out that famines are often created not by a lack of food but by “global surpluses that are used to destabilize agricultural production in developing countries.”
Among the colorful mix of nearly 40 works, ranging from photographs to paintings to installations to short films, one piece called “Days in trash” for instance addresses the issue by showing a group of people removing fresh food tossed in the garbage and using it to cook up a feast. The film, part of an artistic project called “wastecooking” launched in Austria in April this year, “aims to capture the spectator’s brain through their stomach to sensitise them to the question of global food waste,” according to the description of the piece.
Spanish artist Miralda meanwhile hints at the danger of diminishing biodiversity with a piece called “Reserva Natural” featuring a number of colorful skulls created from different types of dried beans. “It’s a living artwork, even if it represents the icon of death,” he told AFP, pointing out that “it’s organic, it will disappear, but you can also water it and it will sprout.”


The exhibition, which features works by other renowned artists like Marina Abramovic of Serbia, Joseph Beuys of Germany and Pipilotti Rist of Switzerland, is set to run in Geneva until Feb. 24.


San Francisco restaurants open kitchens to refugee chefs

Updated 24 June 2018
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San Francisco restaurants open kitchens to refugee chefs

  • The Refugee Food Festival started in Paris in 2016 and came to the US for the first time this year
  • The program lets refugees aspiring to be chefs work in professional kitchens

SAN FRANCISCO: At San Francisco’s Tawla restaurant, Muna Anaee powdered her hands with flour and gently broke off a piece of golden dough to prepare bread eaten in Iraq, the country she fled with her family.
Anaee was preparing more than 100 loaves for diners Wednesday night as part of a program that lets refugees aspiring to be chefs work in professional kitchens.
The Refugee Food Festival — a joint initiative of the United Nations Refugee Agency and a French nonprofit, Food Sweet Food — started in Paris in 2016 and came to the US for the first time this year, with restaurants in New York participating as well. The establishments’ owners turn over their kitchens to refugee chefs for an evening, allowing them to prepare sampling platters of their country’s cuisine and share a taste of their home.
Restaurants in 12 cities outside the US are taking part in the program this month.
“It’s been a big dream to open a restaurant,” said Anaee, 45, who now has a green card.
Anaee was among five refugees chosen to showcase their food in San Francisco — each at a different restaurant and on a different night, from Tuesday through Saturday. Organizers say the goal is to help the refugees succeed as chefs and raise awareness about the plight of refugees worldwide.
It’s important to “really get to know these refugees and their personal stories,” said Sara Shah, who brought the event to California after seeing it in Belgium.
Anaee and her husband and two children left Baghdad in 2013 over concerns about terrorism and violence. She worked as a kindergarten teacher in Iraq, not a chef, but was urged to pursue cooking as a career by peers in an English class she took in California after they tasted some of her food.
Azhar Hashem, Tawla’s owner, said hosting Anaee was part of the restaurant’s mission to broaden diners’ understanding of the Middle East — a region that inspires some of its dishes.
“Food is the best — and most humanizing — catalyst for having harder conservations,” she said.
The four other aspiring chefs serving food in San Francisco are from Myanmar, Bhutan, Syria and Senegal.
Karen Ferguson, executive director of the Northern California offices of the International Rescue Committee, said San Francisco was a good city for the food festival.
“We have so much diversity, and we see the evidence of that in the culinary expertise in the area,” she said.
The Bay Area has a high concentration of refugees from Afghanistan, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Eritrea and Burma, though exact numbers are unclear, according to the rescue committee. Its Oakland office settled more than 400 refugees in the Bay Area last year, but the number of refugees settling in the region has fallen dramatically since the Trump administration this year placed a cap on arrivals, Ferguson said.
Pa Wah, a 41-year-old refugee from Myanmar, presented dishes at San Francisco’s Hog Island Oyster Co. on Tuesday. She said she didn’t consider a career in cooking until she moved to California in 2011 and got her green card.
Cooking was a means of survival at the Thailand refugee camp where she lived after escaping civil conflict in Myanmar as a child. Participating in the food festival showed her the challenges of running a restaurant, but also helped her realize she was capable of opening her own, she said.