What comes to mind when you hear the word “food”? As eating is our basic need, our relationship with food, whether we realise it or not, is not only formed by the ecosystem and culture around us, it is also able to form both. And here is where art plays its role as a mirror that reflects and inquires the permutations that arise from this incontrovertible synergy.
Media arts festival OK. Video, via its Open Lab program that focuses on the relations between media, technology and the politics of food, strives to explore food through the lens of culture, in addition to its socio-economic perspective. Stemming from concerns over the rising modernity and urbanisation in Indonesian villages, they chose the Sungai Utik Village in Kapuas Hulu, West Kalimantan as the ground for exploration, especially considering the Sungai Utik customary forest is long known for providing food sources for the Dayak Iban people that inhabit its surroundings.
With this objective in mind, UK’s Cooking Sections and renowned Indonesian chef Rahung Nasution were commissioned to study the food culture at the village. During their stay, they were exposed to various types of plants, studied old family recipes and observed the eating habits of the Dayak Iban people. Along the way, they also discovered unique, one-of-a-kind ingredients, such as forest guava, Hoven's carp and Pangium edule.
These discoveries were eventually showcased during a one-night-only dining show titled “A Collaborative Research Project: A Culinary Heritage of Dayak Iban” at Sukanda Kitchen, Jakarta, in partnership with British Council. Throughout the event, Rahung and Cooking Sections repurposed the ingredients obtained at Sungai Utik for the urban tastebuds. This initiative is expected to raise our collective awareness on the importance on preserving customary forests and local communities at Sungai Utik and beyond. In doing so, it means that we take a small part in preserving our cultural and culinary diversity across the archipelago.