Attention to detail is a highly prized attribute in all aspects of the RAXA Collective experience, and we hope it doesn’t seem pedestrian to extend that concept to something as commercial as shopping. Some people may beg to differ, but there are many cases where the “consumer transaction” is so much more.
We’ve spent many happy hours in exploration to find sustainably produced, cottage industry items. A trip to Gujarat led us to the Kala Raksha Trust. Walks in Cochin led us to the Vimalalayam Convent School, and the NGO A Hundred Hands has introduced us to many of the wonderful craftswomen whose products we highlight, including designer Usha Prajapati from Samoolam.
We’ve been great fans of the results of her work with the women of Bihar from the moment we saw it, and hearing her personal story adds a beautiful dimension to the concept of “self-help”. Thanks to FvF (Freunde von Freunden) for their inspiring online interview.
Samoolam, Usha’s design collective, which is making a name for its beautiful hand-crocheted lifestyle products, is incredible not just because its founder is young, talented and inspiring, but because its process of creation is held together by a network of strong and talented women much like her – women who make things happen, who are changing their worlds, one crochet bead at a time.
It’s been awhile since we wrote about Nick Cave and the inspired and inspiringly creative form of upcycling he applies in his “happenings”. It seems particularly appropriate that this particular Flux Project (sounds pretty pop-up, right?) takes place at Atlanta’s Ponce City Market, an adaptive reuse renovation of the historic 1926 Sears & Roebuck building into an urban community of hub of living, work and public space.
About the work
Up Right: Atlanta is a “call to arms, head and heart” for Cave initiates—the lead characters of this work. Through the performance, they are prepared mind, body and spirit to face the forces that stand in the way of self-hood, to enter a world over which they have complete control. Initiates become warriors of their own destiny.
Hospitality is in our DNA, but we always want to go the extra mile for the those who tickle our creative fancy. In fact, World Banana Day touches us on multiple dimensions, and we thank our newest contributor, Rosanna Abrachan, for bringing it to our attention.
Stephen Brusche is someone who clearly enjoys playing with his food, and scrolling through his gallery it was close to impossible to choose favorites from over 200 fabulously creative examples, crafted with a wink and smile at both the sacred and the profane. We settled on 2 of our iconic Kerala fauna above, but be prepared to lose yourself in the images when you visit his site. Continue reading
My friends and family might roll their eyes at the frequency they’ve heard me state the title of this post, but given cumin’s importance in the cuisines of the world, it bears repeating. The spice’s ubiquitous place around the globe dates back to the Old Testament. Seeds excavated in India have been dated to the second millennium BC. Egyptians used it as a spice as well as one of the many ingredients required for mummification. Its heavy use in Greek, Roman and Assyrian cuisines help earn its place in the pantheon of spices.
“Once it has been introduced into a new land and culture, cumin has a way of insinuating itself deeply into the local cuisine, which is why it has become one of the most commonly used spices in the world,” writes Gary Nabhan, author and social science researcher at the University of Arizona Southwest Center, in his recent book, Cumin, Camels, and Caravans.
Nabhan’s book is really a much broader look at the spice trade and its relationship to history and culture. But cumin earned a spot in the title “because it is so demonstrative of culinary globalization,” Nabhan writes.
Cumin has also literally been popular since the dawn of written history.
In English, at least, cumin has a singular distinction – it is the only word that can be traced directly back to Sumerian, the first written language. So when we talk about cumin, we are harkening back to the Sumerian word gamun, first written in the cuneiform script more than 4,000 years ago. Continue reading
In the summer of 1988 Crist and I boarded a flight to Missoula, Montana, watching nervously through the window as the luggage that included our bikes and gear was loaded on the plane. We’d been “training” for several months, riding our bikes around New York City, our panniers filled with heavy phone books. Our 900 kilometer journey through the Canadian Rockies from Missoula to Jasper, Alberta – carrying all the requisite gear – was exhilarating, “impossible” and crazy, especially for biking novices such as ourselves. Reading about Trevor Ward’s experiences strikes a chord.
Back in the mid-1980s, I did something that members of my local cycling club found hilarious – I cycled to the Sahara Desert and back.
In their Lycra shorts and replica Peugeot and La Vie Claire racing jerseys, they laughed at my bike which, laden with panniers, tent, cooking stove, sleeping bag, spare tyres and even a small folding deckchair, had been transformed from a sleek blade of steel to something resembling the aftermath of a gas explosion.
My humiliation continued in the remotest parts of Tunisia and Algeria where groups of children would greet my arrival at their villages by throwing lumps of rock at my head. Continue reading
As a language, Malayalam is a perfect example of form as function: its “loopy” forms seem to roll off the speaker’s tongue. The word itself is even a palindrome, reading forward and backward in a never-ending loop. The high literacy rate in Kerala is evident in the newspapers found in tea stalls at every corner, not to mention the ubiquitous walls painted with verbal signage in both urban and rural settings, and those signs often feel more like murals due to the graphic nature of the language itself. The Kochi-Muziris Biennale ’14 is the perfect platform to express this concept:
Among the various internationally-acclaimed installations at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale ’14 is Malayalam Project that strives to draw the world’s attention towards the regional language and script.
A partner project at the Biennale, Malayalam Project is a collaborative forum that experiments with Malayalam letterform and typography. Kochi-based firms Thought Factory Design and Viakerala have put together this typography cum graphic design exhibition in collaboration with Riyas Komu, secretary of the Kochi Biennale.
“In the digital era, where imagery is used to communicate ideas, words become canvas of graphic. We are looking at how Malayalam, which is either a sound or a text enters the visual age we live in,” said the creative director Theresa Joseph George.
Pointing out that her firms have done lot of research into the field of Malayalam typography, Theresa, who is also a graphic designer, says, “Malayalam script with its loopy curves provides immense scope for experimentation.” Continue reading
The holiday season is about giving and the classic song quantifies the largess. The American Museum of Natural History is home to many happy childhood memories and I embrace their scientific form of expressing holiday cheer. Not everyone can claim their “True Love” is a “Science Geek” – but kudos to AMNHNYC for helping us all be Science Lovers!
Our time in Thailand included a range of sensory experiences, one of which was tea. One might think that living in India, we have little more to learn about tea, but that is far from the truth. Our experience with tea in our adopted home has been more visual than experiential; drives through the beautiful, sculpted tea landscapes of Munnar, or the tea tours near Thekkady, for example.
In the northern Thailand we visited a 60-hectare tea plantation near the Lisu Hilltribe village in Chaing Mai Province. One of the oldest plantations in the country, the owners are working on expanding the quantity of tea produced while offering the full range of tea experience for visitors, from planting a seed that will be lovingly cared for over a 2-year period before being transplanted, to hand plucking the tender green “silver tips” of the tea, Continue reading
There are many similarities between Indian and Thai river life; watching villagers and people on barges going about their daily lives on the water is one, and the flora and fauna of river life is another. While traveling on the Chao Phraya River it only took a moment to see how the water hyacinths have the potential to choke river traffic. My excitement was piqued when Chananya from Asian Oasis told me that there was an established industry to use the plant for decorative, household and furniture purposes. Continue reading
With the opening of Spice Harbour and Marari Pearl, life at RAXA Collective frequently is filled with a flurry of activities. But a current visit to meet colleagues in Thailand has reminded me of my love of markets. The first leg of our trip took place on the lovely Mekhala Rice Boat cruising up the Chao Phraya River from Bangkok toward the Bang Pa In Summer Palace. The overnight was lovely, but one of the highlights was a stop at the riverside market at Pathum Thani.
Although similar to markets I’ve experience in India, this one seemed to have a distinctive Thai flare, with more prepared items than I’ve seen in India.
As we continue to work on plating and food trials for 51 at Spice Harbour, the concept of deconstructing a typical Kerala dish often makes it into the conversation. During these conversations with Indian colleagues the subject of “typical American food” frequently comes up. Like India, there’s no one “American cuisine” (don’t get me started on the horrors of our fast food exports), but a Thanksgiving meal comes close.
In the collaborative spirit of preparing and plating a meal that’s meant to be shared, multi-media artist Hannah Rothstein deconstructed the classic Thanksgiving meal of turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce and “sides” with a nod to 10 artists with the most distinctive of painting styles, with the acception of Cindy Sherman, a photographer best known for her conceptual portraits. Continue reading
One aspect of the reconnaisance for projects in Greece included embracing and honoring past experiences. The place of foodways and cuisine in the narrative of lives can never be underestimated. The taste and aroma of a specific food brings back floods of memories, crossing the bounderies of time and space.
Visiting Laconia, the region in the Greek Peloponnesus that year after year receives accolades for both it’s olives and extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) was in many ways like coming home. Coming home to family heritage, coming home to living in other olive producing countries and how we embraced those cyclical events that humans have engaged in from time immemorial.
In the village of Soustiani in Laconia we met Nikos Papadakos and his wife, after a 6 year hiatus, to again talk about their company, Lithos. In this region of olive excellence they form a cooperative of organic farmers, collecting the harvest into one source and both pressing the fruit into EVOO and packaging the olives in both jars and vacuum packed sachets for easy transport. Continue reading