Tongue and Throat Memories

On hospitality and conviviality through food
Knowledges and convenings
Cooking Sessions

In the Wolof language spoken in the Senegambia region in West Africa, the word kër could be translated as ‘house’. However, the meaning of kër goes beyond an understanding of the house as a physical structure; it encompasses the people in it and their experiences, roles, energy, values, and modes of care, which are collectively constructed. A better translation of kër in English would be a “welcoming house” with food and love alike—a welcoming home. Tongue and Throat Memories acts as an ongoing quest to respond to the central question: To what extent could Haus der Kulturen der Welt be thought of and transformed into a home for the cultures of our worlds?

Fundamental to this question is to embrace all future guests that walk through HKW’s doors. Knowing that a home can live on, be permanent, and in a process of constant revival and energy renewal from generation to generation, the question of what will become of this home that intends to be built together is crucial. In establishing a welcoming home, food is a central element for convening guests from many origins, age groups, and cultures, for one cannot study any culture without engaging in a quest to understand its food rituals and traditions. Cooking and sharing a meal thus constitute a gesture of solidarity and of healing. This programme takes shape through cooking, tasting, and eating moments, considering them as starting points for meaningful encounters and dialogues.

In her groundbreaking book, Longthroat Memoirs: Soups, Sex and Nigerian Taste Buds, Nigerian writer Yemisi Aribisala reminds us of how fascinating throat memories are, even though often forgotten as essential archives. She reflects on hospitality and conviviality, pointing out the way traditional circular seating and collective eating found in West African traditions and around the world have dealt with difference and exclusion.

Thinking about the long history of forced migration and displacement, this is an opportunity to unpack various food cultures of those who historically had to establish new homes on lands in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East as an act of survival and resistance. These new homes were constructed around the need for subsistence resolved only by active practices such as seeding, farming, and other modes of food cultivation. Escaping enslaved people, for instance, used hair braiding techniques to collectively draw maps of the slave masters’ fields. As an act of survival, they hid seeds under their braids, allowing them to establish themselves in new lands and use their earthly knowledge to grow food and utilize resources from scratch.

In order to learn from these stories and numerous others that have been neglected, throat memories are activated through the sharing of a meal in an effort to collectively learn about one’s traditions and knowledge. Throughout the next five years, invited chefs from different cultures take up residence in the kitchen of Weltwirtschaft, the restaurant on HKW’s premises, where economies of human relations shall be the main source of action and motivation. Each invited chef will be in residency for a time in which they will create a special menu for HKW guests. Each menu will be accompanied by an element of storytelling shared through various programmatic articulations such as films, performances, music, literature, leisure activities, and conversations. In this way, the intention is to revive the kitchen as a laboratory, a space for knowledge production, exchange, and transmission.

With the contributions of:

June 2023
Chef Fatmata Binta: Dine on a Mat—A Taste from the Fulani Kitchen

July 2023
Chef Paul Toussaint: Taste of the Haitian Dish

November 2023:
Chef Sean Sherman: Revitalizing Native American Cuisine with The Sioux Chef

By introducing Fonio, an ancient African super grain, to the world and by increasing the productivity of smallholder farmers in its value chain, an alternative source of income will be generated for farmers which will lead to improved livelihoods, allow them and their households to be more resilient to climate shocks, and enhance food security in rural communities. Photo: Apag Studios

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