Ethiopians have been growing and obsessing about teff for millennia, and it may
become the new “super grain” of choice in Europe and North America, overtaking
the likes of quinoa and spelt. High in protein and calcium, and gluten-free, teff is
already growing in popularity on the international stage.
James Jeffrey. BBC News, Business, 2 April 2015.
When I first went to Berlin to attend the Transart Institute Summer Residency in 2014, I remember how surprised I was to see in an organic food shop, a nicely packaged hundred grams of ground teff for sale. I was surprised because to start with, I had never seen such a tiny amount of teff for sale, as we tend to buy ours in bulk given that it is our staple food. The second reason for my surprise was that I never expected to see a local ingredient so attached to my national identity and culture being offered to western consumers to use in their cooking.
In line with Transart’s Triennale statement “…Our ‘interactions’ with ‘other’ cultures and with nature is both inevitable and profoundly altering…”, I would like to propose for the one day collaborative workshop to use teff as the principal ingredient to explore “… the collapsing distance between us…” . Each participant would be encouraged to create a dish drawing on his or her national cuisine but substituting the main ingredient with teff. Can we really bridge the gap by fusing our ingredients? What does our responsibility towards each other entail? Will the exchange be fair and sustainable or will it be at the expense of one over the other? What happens when all of a sudden an ingredient becomes a worldwide commodity? How does it affect the identity of the people of origin and that of those who adopt the ingredient as part of their culinary vocabulary? These would be some of the questions that could be entertained during The Collapsing Distance Between Us food event.
Konjit Seyoum is an Ethiopian artist, curator, cook and conference interpreter. She was born in Addis Ababa in 1963. She is the owner of Asni Gallery, which she founded in 1996 to promote contemporary Ethiopian art and food as an art form. Konjit is a graduate of the University of Trieste, School of Interpretation and Translation and is currently completing her MFA in Creative Arts at the Transart Institute, which is based between Berlin and New York.
Konjit has been combining art and food at her gallery, which is well known as a social space for artists and the public at large. She uses vegetarian food as a principal element to bring people together from all walks of life, beliefs and nationality. Through her culinary events, Konjit addresses social, political and cultural issues. In late 2014, she initiated Kitchen 1199 as part of her MFA project that advocates for a better hospital food. In addition, she has also been looking at the impacts of globalisation on local food, culture and identity as well as the potential of food as a conflict resolution mechanism. Her recent food works include: Kitchen 1199, Shades of Green, Visiting Hours, The Last Song, The Last Song Enacted, The Last Song Remembered, The Sound of Circle, Future Memories, Crossing Boundaries: The Nile Kitchen – Lentil Dynamics.