It came to me in a blurred flash as I lay in bed; one of those fully formed but slightly distant insights as I was on the verge of sleep. “Don’t forget this. Remember this when you wake up … The colour of rice and peas…the beans staining the rice…that beautiful brown… Can it be recreated on fabrics dyed with red beans? Can I get the direct trace of the food on fabric?” Rarely do I retain these thoughts, but this one stayed with me, this one changed the direction of my work; changed my entire practice. It grew and grew, and still it grows and develops, evolves, changes me.
I wanted to find a way to bring food into my work. I had been exploring my mixed Jamaican and Canadian ancestry and was struggling as to how to reference my father’s Swedish and Welsh heritage, which I knew so little about. I was also becoming more and more aware of a culture of collection and display, of colonial links to how histories are recorded and exhibited, of exclusions of domestic traditions; becoming more aware of woman’s histories and arts, of a loss of these traditions in our culture. By taking the foods of my mother’s culture and staining/dyeing the textiles of my father’s I was starting to fit everything together. Naturally dyed textiles lent themselves well to a conversation of foods as the processes of dyeing and cooking are quite similar. The material must go through numerous boiling steps, throughout which recipes and timing are crucial factors in the resulting colours achieved.
The first piece arrived in the form of an apron. Cotton dyed with red peas (kidney beans), Curry, and spinach, a North American substitute for callaloo. A traditional Jamaican sunday dinner. The result spurred a whole, still developing and expanding series and new way of working.
PS: my apologies for the poor image quality. I promise to take better pictures and post them soon.