© Sarah Colson
26 November 2014
by Sarah Colson
In her fourth report from Bandung, Sarah Colson tells of a meal bringing different parts of the community together to address their local issues collectively.
The Meal #4: #NO STIGMA
The Meal #4: #NO STIGMA is an ongoing project that seeks to bring communities together through the act of sharing a meal. The ambition for the event was designed to stimulate new relationships and openly discuss issues around stigma in the wider community. The challenge was to consider all areas of the eating process, including using the five different food types supplied to replace crockery and cutlery.
To enhance conversations around issues I had been discussing over the past 3 weeks, I created a series of napkins, a large tablecloth and aprons. Screen prints were designed using the Wayang shadow puppet characters to convey different messages. I tried to limit the subjects and target specific issues: HIV, drug use and LGBT prejudice. Everyone received an apron with the event’s logo and a space to write their names.
The event opened with a group gathering to introduce everyone. I presented previous events and talked about the various skills different members brought to the ‘table’. Representatives from the student, design, educational, political, HIV and LGBT communities sat side by side, unsure of what the event may hold.
Many of the group quickly explained that they couldn’t cook. I encouraged them to speak to their neighbors as they could ask them questions or assist where necessary. I also encouraged them to play to their strengths. If they were artistically minded perhaps they could design the serving platters, or decorate the food once it had been cooked.
We sprung into action and everyone started chopping, peeling, crushing and skinning the variety of foods I had on show. Many individuals had confidence in picking up the foods and beginning. I found if someone didn’t know what to do, I could start doing something and then a smaller group would form around me who quickly took over. Within minuets the whole areas had transformed into a busy kitchen where smells and colour filled the space.
The event started at 3pm and we finished at around 9pm. Many conversations around subjects that seemed to be taboo were respectfully discussed. In one instance I found a group of students talking to three guys from the LGBT community. They were discussing the prejudices they faced on a daily basis. It looked sad and somber from their faces, so Panca intervened. He told the students of the shows and dance routines the guys toured Java with. It didn’t take much encouragement for them to plug in their iPods in and demonstrate their dance routines.
Similar conversations happened throughout the event and various new friendships were made. The Dean of a university approached me. He explained his doubt at the beginning of the event, saying that he felt the communities would collide and co-operation would not happen. He then thanked me for offering his city such a wonderful gift. He had not realized the stigma he had placed on groups or places within the city.
As the meal came to a close it was apparent that a lot of food had not been used. Erna (from Pulosari) asked if she could take it and bring it back to the community and share it out. I later discovered what I thought to be a small bag of shopping was split between 13 families across Pulosari.
The Meal #4: #NO STIGMA created a small impact on these massive issues. I have spent most of my time feeling overwhelmed and disorientated by their complexities and, to be honest, helpless in their antidotes. This event made me realise that through a simple act of ‘breaking bread’, relationships of trust and understanding can benefit a wider community.
The Meal is an ongoing project that works with different communities building relationships through food, encouraging creativity and collective design.