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Cultural food practices explored for art installation

Media release – Otago Polytechnic

For immediate release, 5 September

Cultural food practices explored for international art installation

An art project conceived in Dunedin will explore the exchange of food and the cultural philosophies surrounding it, as part of the 2012 International Symposium of Electronic Arts in the United States later this month.

Artist Simon Kaan and Otago Polytechnic Senior Lecturer, Ron Bull, will travel to New Mexico to explore traditional Native American foods and share Ngāi Tahu kai, while exchanging the mahinga kai (cultural food) practices of each people. They have named their project Kai Hau Kai; from kai meaning “food” and hau meaning “to spread” or “a wind or breeze”.

The exchange of ideas will take place face-to-face, but also remotely via online social media platforms – even linking back to various Ngāi Tahu people in New Zealand through Skype. This process will form the basis of a video installation to be exhibited as part of the International Symposium of Electronic Arts at the College of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico from 19-25 September.

The pair will also present their work to the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe.

“We will meet with Native American people over a number of days to discuss and gain an understanding of each other’s mahinga kai practices,” explains Ron Bull. “We anticipate there will be plenty of differences to explore, but many similarities also. For example, both cultures share some spiritual philosophies, such as the idea of an ecological whakapapa.”

Ron will be acting as the chef on the trip, cooking up titi (mutton bird) and tuna (eel) to share. “I’m looking forward to working with the indigenous American chefs and sampling their traditional fare, such as chilis and flatbreads. It would be great if we could incorporate a fusion of preparation styles as we learn from one another.”

Simon Kaan says the project has already been an interesting journey. “There are still many unknowns, but in many ways that is what the project is about; keeping things open so we can learn and respond to different cultural ideas. I am looking forward to seeing how it all takes shape once we get over there.”


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