Thursday, September 8, 2016

A Feast for the Gods

I remember my mother telling me that I should eat well 
because the food is full of vitamins and energy. 
It will make you strong, she said, give you taakat (strength in hindi) like Baby Krishna and Goddess Durga. 
Then you can play and run and draw and do whatever you like.

I wrote these words in a workshop with Ana Ventura in 2013, before the exercise of having to design a bib which conveyed a personal message about food and nutrition. The bib was a collage of golden spoons, with little bits of food scattered here and there as embellishment.

When I come to think about it, I suppose I have always associated food with the divine and the magic.
That is not to say I haven't had my fair share of traumas, obsessions, compulsive diets, and restrictions. 
But through all of that, I have clung on to the message conveyed to me as I was being fed as a child...that food could transmit love, pleasure, celebration, strength and energy.

I can still hear my mother coaxing me on days I was a bit fussy, saying: "but my rani (queen) how will you jump and play if you don't eat first?" She still does it now with my niece and nephew. 
I suppose I will also do so when I have my child. 

I have been reflecting upon all of this over the past few months. These months in which I have hardly posted, because I have been finishing the book. Yesterday I sent off the last of the illustrations to my publishers Ekaré in Barcelona, 
and with only editing and layout left to be done, I feel the need to write about the many things I have realized through this process. 

In the past weeks, I have worked with an intensive rhythm which I didn't know was possible. I completely plunged into the story, not allowing myself very many interruptions of any kind. I tried to rest, but on many nights, sleep itself was interrupted by my desire to keep on working. So I used food to balance my energy in the ways that my Nani and my mother had taught me. 

I drew for hours on end, and when my hand hurt, I treated myself to a session of Shiatsu or a walk in the park. I needed to finished the book before autumn arrived, as if to mark the end of a cycle, and the beginning of a new one. 

When I first started working on this book, I thought I was doing so because of my need to tell my family story. 
Of course that has a lot to do with it. Growing up, Nani's visits were really important to me because when she came, she brought with her not only rituals, recipes, but so much history and connection to our ancestral past. 

But as much as this book is about cultural inheritance, 
I suppose it is as much about our need for stories and storytelling. My childhood fairytales included giants and beanstalks, as well as naughty blue child-gods who stole butter 
and elephant gods who loved sweets. 
My visual imagination was constantly growing with stories from Ghana, from India, from Morocco. When Nani came to visit, the most important part of each day for me was bedtime. I still remember the stories she told us, and how they would come to life. 

Her anecdotes about the Gods and Goddesses fascinated me. I think I began to assimilate it all when I drew the end papers of the book last week. In every detail of every character I remembered a fragment of a story my Nani told me. The end papers turned into a feast for the Gods, just like all of the feasts we have shared during our family reunions, during mealtimes with Nani, during weddings and even funerals. 

Today, or perhaps over the next few days, after I have had a rest, I too will prepare a feast for the Gods, to celebrate what has been one of the most beautiful (and intense) 
creative processes I could have ever imagined... gratitude for all the stories, for all the food, the shakti, the takaat, and for all the magic I was fed from childhood 
and that I continue to receive. 

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