Massive restrictions on mobility during COVID-19 have without a doubt prompted individuals and communities to rethink the interplay between food system and community resilience. UK’s Deveron Projects and Indonesia’s LabTanya joined forces for a series of innovative, interactive, and thought-provoking activities that reflected on the past, analyzed the present, and anticipated a more sustainable future for all.
LabTanya and Deveron Projects divided their collaboration into three formats: Critical Conversation, Site-specific Projects, and Reflection.
In Critical Conversation, LabTanya and Deveron Projects developed a critical understanding and dialogue about food and its complex relations with the spectrum of space, crisis, time, and community resilience. This intimate virtual gathering, which included three sessions: Our Commons, Conflict, and Anticipating Future, was held on Zoom, where a limited number of individuals and collectives within both groups’ networks were invited to participate and enrich the discussions.
For each session, LabTanya and Deveron Projects invited guest speakers from Indonesia and the UK to spark critical discussions: Hayu Dyah (Indonesia), who is actively engaged with indigenous communities in Tengger (East Java) and Alor (East Nusa Tenggara) and known for advocating edible wild plants, and Lizabett Russo (UK), an artist who has explored a lot about wild plants and herbs, gave an in-depth introduction to food and commons.
Meanwhile, Liam Gogali (Indonesia), an activist for the arts and culture community in Poso, and Hussein Mitha (UK), a writer on socio-political issues, led the second session on food and conflict. In the third session, Amar Ma'ruf (Indonesia), an active researcher of the Bajau communities, Rhino Ariefiansyah (Indonesia), an anthropologist and documenter, and Josh Allen (UK) led a discussion related to food and our anticipation of the uncertain future.
Discourses, critical abstractions, and the broad spectrum of understanding produced during the first session were translated and grounded in an everyday context for both organisations, which paved the way for the next session: Site-specific Projects. Before starting the session, LabTanya and Deveron Projects shared concepts, activity formats, and how the communities would be involved in their respective site-specific projects while adhering to health protocols and developments of COVID-19 cases in Indonesia and the UK.
Together with a local community in Pondok Pinang, South Jakarta and collaborators Jayu Juli, Pychita Julinanda, Lab Teater Ciputat, and Kampung Muka Percussion, LabTanya held a series of workshops on the variety of edible plants and typology of kitchen yards in the neighbourhood, knowledge of making dishes (food, drinks, herbs) as well as kitchen yard management. The collection of knowledge produced throughout the process was then celebrated in a series of Harta Kampung Kota Kita (HKKK) Week 2022 activities, which activated eight potential spaces in the neighbourhood via exhibitions, art installations, art performances, workshops, cooking competitions, and talk shows.
Concurrently, Deveron Projects also got together with local communities in Huntly for a series of community events, including Reading Group, Farmer’s Market, and Food Chain.
The Reading Group was led by Hussein Mitha and considered the ways in which colonialism and imperialism have skewed the way we understand greenspace and gardening. For Farmer’s Market, Deveron Projects brought a newly assembled library of books on ecology and art, while working with the public to understand how they can best make these resources public. Meanwhile, Food Chain became the group’s first-ever hybrid and international programme as it welcomed two participants from Indonesia to share recipes and cook together, and in turn allow the Deveron Projects audiences to discover the similarities and the challenges of local and sustainable food production in both places.
Finally, the Reflection session, which was conducted online and open to the public, found LabTanya and the Deveron Project sharing critical notes collected throughout the project using “How Fragile We Are?” as the main theme, which was chosen to reflect on how vulnerable we are, whether as individuals or as a collective, amid the global political and economic structure that we live in today.
Sensitivity and the ability to recognize and acknowledge this vulnerability is needed to encourage the next sensitivity and skill set: Identifying the best qualities in our immediate surroundings, activating and utilizing them to propel us beyond existing conditions, and eventually achieving a better and more sustainable future.
Deveron Projects and LabTanya have been greatly inspired by the collaboration as well as its many achievements and key learnings. Both organisations look forward to finding ways to continue to work together for the long-term. Managing initiatives in a variety of ranges (abstract to practical), spaces (online to offline), and scales (global to local) proved to be refreshing, especially amid the limitations imposed by the pandemic.
Furthermore, this kind of exchange is integral for the ongoing developments of creative and cultural productions in both countries, and has created a legacy of sharing between community-engaged and critical creative organisations across cultures.