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Pop-up restaurant serves a message - as well as food - in art gallery

Not many people consider what impact agriculture has on society; The Non-Egyptian Restaurant art installation - on until 27 Nov. - aims to put thought back into food

Ahram Online, Monday 5 Nov 2012
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A pop-up restaurant, El-Matam El-Mish Masry (The Non-Egyptian Restaurant), opens in the Artewella Art Space to serve not just food, but a message.

The Spanish artist that came up with the project, Asunción Molinos, is from a small agrarian community in Spain, she tells Ahram Online in a telephone interview.

Molinos believes that farmers are not just the producers of food, uncultured and the least important people, as society generally regards them, but rather are the carriers of culture.

Just like culture and any field of expertise, she says, "scriptwriters, directors, etc. agriculture has a set of practices, knowledge and sciences that must be handed down."

The experience that grounded this Spanish artist in Egypt was a five-month residence in January 2010 to work on a project in the Townhouse Gallery in downtown Cairo. Once here, though, Egypt fascinated her: "I fell in love with Egypt," to use Molinos' words.

"Although Egypt is undergoing a very difficult phase, it is so important and people want to do things right." Molinos felt compelled to stay.

Among the conversations with colleagues and friends she's made in Egypt she heard a constant: "Egypt is no longer ours." It seems to belong to everyone except to "us," they lament.

This even seems to pervade down to the level of agriculture, where Molinos points out the alarming rate at which agricultural land is squatted on for residential buildings or taken over for large urbanisations; how the highest quality foods are exported or kept only for use in hotels; rising food prices and their impact on Egyptians' health.

To make people really think about all of the politics, sociology and impact of globalisation and lack of action on the part of society with regards to protecting agriculture, Molinos uses four tactics through El-Matam El-Mish Masry during four weeks of November.

In week one (this week) Elizabeth Shoghi, a chef from a 5-star hotel kitchen prepares a menu from gourmet Egyptian ingredients that are usually only found in hotels or meant for export. The restaurant only charges LE5 (less than $1) so that the community that Artewella sits in can actually afford their own products.

In week two, four local women from the Women and Society Association will cook meals that they would normally cook for themselves and their families on their budget.

In week three, Molinos herself and another cook will focus on harvesting throughout the area where Artewella is located: an agricultural land. They will cook what is found on the ground in the neighbourhood.

The last week culminates with the most experimental-sounding adventure: excavations will be conducted in the neighbourhood to see what food can literally be unearthed. To see what Egypt's falaheen (farmers) of the past were growing.

The food at El Mataam Mish Masry is meant to be eaten and enjoyed, all the while it is prepared so purposefully, so diligently, so as to highlight the importance of the impact of food on society and vice versa. The restaurant works off of set daily menus, no a la carte.

Programme:
Currently open until 27 November
Saturdays – Tuesdays, 5:00 – 10:00pm
Artewella Art Space
19 Mohamed El Eseary Street
Ard El Lewa, Giza, Cairo

 

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