Artist’s Kitchen Salon Series

September 2022–March 2023

A series of monthly Artist’s Kitchen Salons, presented partnership with INIVA. The series saught to question what is conjured in our memory through food, in gathering together over an evening meal.

We invited members of INIVA’s Research Network Safiya Robinson (sisterwoman vegan), Holly Graham, Shenece Oretha and Beatrix Pang to come together with curators, writers, artists and creatives to share their ongoing research in dialogue with one another over a shared meal of vibrant, plant-based food cooked by sisterwoman vegan. 

Thyme after Thyme

Safiya Robinson

Thursday 29 September 2022

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 conversations 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 master’s programme in the Anthropology of Food at SOAS University.

For our first Artist Kitchen Salon, Safiya Robinson, founder of sisterwoman vegan shared her research exploring Afro-Caribbean supermarkets as a symbol of nationhood for the British Black Diaspora. 

Safiya’s work uses food as a tool to explore community, education and mindfulness and the salon opened with a grounding meditation. Adding intentional nourishment in the form of a supper club, Safiya created a space for critical food conservation. The menu for the salon incorporated thyme as an ingredient from the welcome drink to the starter, main and dessert and each dish represented a different element of her research. Invited guests interacted with the feel and smell of thyme and the research itself while being transported to Rye Lane, a southeast London hub for Afro-Caribbean supermarkets with an atmospheric soundscape.  

Thyme is often found in African and Caribbean dishes, including Jollof and jerk, which are recognised as key markers of West-African and West-Indian cultural identity, respectively. However, it was not originally grown within these regions, highlighting the tension between the construction of diaspora identity and nationhood.

While Afro-Caribbean supermarkets can be a sign to members of the black diaspora that “we are here”, historically, they are not owned by people within the community and the products sold are rarely black-owned. Food banks often don’t have cultural foods available, highlighting that members of the black diaspora are not considered part of the British national identity.

As part of this salon, attendees were encouraged to bring an item from their local Afro-Caribbean supermarket to donate to Brixton People’s Kitchen, a local food charity in-between Stuart Hall Library and Studio Voltaire.

  1. Da Silva, Rui. A Quick Ting on Plantain. Jacaranda Books, 2022. 

    Harris, Jessica B. High on the hog: A culinary journey from Africa to America. Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2011.  

    Ngimbi, Emmanuella. Portsmouth and Plantain Chips: “How the pandemic affected the ‘African Food Store”. Vittles, accessed 21 September 2022. 

    Schalbroeck, Eva. “Season with Money, Knowledge, Civilisation, and Exchange: Culinary Herbs and Spices during Colonial Rule in the Congo (1885 to 1960).” 

    Smart-Grosvenor, Vertamae. Vibration cooking: Or, the travel notes of a Geechee girl. University of Georgia Press, 2011.  

    Tookes, Jennifer Sweeney. “The food represents”: Barbadian foodways in the diaspora.” Appetite 90 (2015): 65-73. 

    Zubaida, Sami, Richard Tapper, and Claudia Roden. A Taste of Thyme: Culinary Cultures of the Middle East. Tauris Parke Paperbacks, 2001.

Collective Digestive

Holly Graham

Thursday 27 October 2022

Holly Graham is a London-based artist, working predominantly with print and audio. Much of her work looks at how 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 a Co-Founder of Cypher BILLBOARD, London. She is also a Trustee at Kingsgate Workshops.

For our second Artist Kitchen Salon, 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 long 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 of sugar and slavery. Safiya Robinson’s menu for the salon incorporated sugar as a key ingredient within several vegan sharing plates.

As we explored the wider history around Holly’s research investigating the formations of British history and identity, Holly sought to question:

  • How do we address traumatic histories with sensitivity and nuance in a way that makes space for grief while also not centring 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 participate in a collective conversation with others at 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 meditation to digest the information shared, guests were encouraged over a sweet dessert to share their reflections on the research on postcards anonymously. These written postcards were collected to inform Holly’s work further making visible the collective histories of local communities.

  1. Akala, Natives, 2018

    Tina M. Campt, Image Matters, 2012

    Tina M. Campt, Listening to Images, 2017

    Peter Chadwich & Ben Weaver, The Town of Tomorrow: 50 Years of Thamesmead, 2019

    Matthew Collins, Hate: My Life in the Far Right, 2011

    Nigel Copsey, Contemporary British Fascism: The British National Party and the Quest for Legitimacy, 2008

    Reni Eddo-Lodge, Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race, 2017

    Peter Fryer, Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain, 1984

    Paul Gilroy, There Ain’t No Black In The Union Jack, 1987

    Stuart Hall, Chas Critcher, Tony Jefferson, John Clarke, and Brian Roberts, Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State, and Law and Order, 1978

    Roger Hewitt, White Backlash and the Politics of Multiculturalism, 2005

    Afua Hirsch, Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging, 2018

    Michael Keith, After the Cosmopolitan? Multicultural Cities and the Future of Racism, 2005

    Michael Keith, Race, Riots and Policing: Lore and Disorder in a Multi-Racist Society, 1993

    Caroline Knowles, Race and Social Analysis, 2003

    Kennetta Hammond Perry, London is the Place for Me, 2015

    James Rhodes and Laurence Brown, 'The rise and fall of the 'inner city': Race, space and urban policy in Postwar England', Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 2018

    Richard Smith, ‘The Effects of Local Fair Housing Ordinances on Housing Segregation: Their Impact Is Small, But It's an Important Positive Change Toward Integration’, The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 1989

    Nikesh Shukla, The Good Immigrant, 2016

    John Solomos, Black Youth, Racism and the State: The Politics of Ideology and Policy, 1988

    Christina Sharpe, In the Wake, 2016

    Peter Taffe, The Rise of Militant, 2013

    M. Testa, Militant Anti-Fascism: A Hundred Years of Resistance, 2015

    Valerie G. Wigfall, Thamesmead, 1997

    Frank B. Wilderson III, Afropessimism, 2020

Resonant Histories

Shenece Oretha

Thursday 24 November 2022

Shenece Oretha is a London-based multidisciplinary artist sounding out the voice and sound’s mobilising potential. Through installation, performance, print, sculpture, sound, workshops and text, she amplifies and celebrates listening and sound as an embodied and collective practice. In collaboration with groups in the community with Open School East and Despacito Art School in Margate, Oretha created a soundscape work for DRIFT – a post-national digital pavilion.

For our third Artist Kitchen Salon, Shenece shared her recent research sounding histories of the materials behind the sounds of the Caribbean diaspora. Shenece is interested in how we can interact with sounds and explore how food can be a textually sonic part of journeys travelled to and from the sea. Drawing from Black oral and feminist traditions of call and response central to Shenece’s practice, guests listened to her new soundscape created for DRIFT, over an evening meal.

The menu incorporated food that made different sounds while eating and different types of salt in each course. Beginning with a warm ceremonial tea and the percussion of popcorn being made, we then moved towards the starter. Inspired by the ritual of making dinner, guests shared musician and poet Sun Ra’s Moon Stew soup whilst being transformed to the sea with the music of Shenece’s soundscape playing. As we thought about the blending of sounds of food and music, guests were encouraged to feedback into Shenece’s research through prompted questions to create a recorded performance dinner.

Beatrix Pang Sin Kwok


Friday 17 March 2023

Beatrix Pang Sin Kwok 彭倩幗 (they/them, Hong Kong) is a visual artist, cultural producer and independent publisher. In their current year-long residency at Studio Voltaire,  Beatrix plans to expand their self-publishing practice and produce a series of zines in collaboration with Studio Voltaire’s studio community and audiences. They will also further their experimentations with still/moving image, writing and printing production, and explore the potential of the kitchen and food to bring London’s London’s East and Southeast Asian (ESEA) diasporic communities together.

For the fourth and final Artist Kitchen Salon, Beatrix shared their ongoing research into how food can anchor and connect us with our cultural roots and chosen family. Expanding on conversations started in Hong Kong, Beatrix connected with members of ESEA's genderqueer community to explore migration and diaspora stories as it relates to the fluidity of their experience.

To move away from Western forms of thinking about trans-formation, the menu was inspired by dehydrated ingredients that expand or transform in water – a symbolic link to the navigation of trans experience over time and space. Connecting land and sea, the key ingredients included seaweed, sea moss, mushrooms and burdock root that grow everywhere like a diasporic network.

Guests were welcomed with a soothing ginger and burdock root tea, followed by a mushroom-based starter. Published materials from Beatrix’s practice were shared during the main dish of comforting cup noodles in broth. Guests personalised their cup noodles with silver fungus, dried burdock root, and sesame oil or soy sauce seasoning, which expanded within the broth.

Over an assortment of refreshing fruit jellies, guests provided anonymous handwritten reflections with stories about comfort food. These notes will be used to form part of Beatrix’s research for the publication of a new zine.

  1. Iniva (Institute of International Visual Arts) is an evolving, radical visual arts organisation dedicated to developing an artistic programme that reflects on the social and political impact of globalisation.

    With the Stuart Hall Library acting as a critical and creative hub for our work, we collaborate with artists, curators, researchers and cultural producers to challenge conventional notions of diversity and difference. We engage a wide audience, particularly young people, in discourse and debate on issues surrounding the politics of race, class and gender.

Studio Voltaire
1A Nelsons Row
London SW4 7JR

Open Wednesday–Sunday, 10 am–5 pm.

Registered Charity No: 1082221. Registered Company No: 03426509. VAT No: GB314268026