Mothers and children from the Portman Early Childhood Centre have been working with artist Jasleen Kaur to ask how cooking and eating together can be a site of resistance.
Everyday Resistance revisits the Portman’s community lunch programme of 2008, no longer in existence due to cuts in funding, where parents took it in turns to gather, cook a meal and eat together. For this new iteration, the process centred on bread, a staple food stuff with endless variations. Families made bread together, learning a culturally significant recipe from a different group member each week.
The project takes place against a background of austerity and the hostile environment, and centres the concerns of people who feel its effects most deeply. Through the process of cooking and eating together, people shared experiences of racism, the isolation of being newly arrived to the country, frustration with cuts to ESOL classes and displacement from the neighbourhood to the edges of London and beyond. Together we ask: How can cooking and eating be an act of resistance? How can we create a network of care to support ourselves and others? How can we take up space and make our voices heard when the government is systematically working on the removal of us?
In collaboration with designer Cecilia Serafini and Jasleen Kaur, the group produced a series of picnic blankets featuring images, questions and conversation fragments from the project. The blankets, a familiar and everyday object, also function as a form of resistance; a tool for those who don’t consider themselves protesters. In September 2019 mothers and children gathered for a picnic at Speakers Corner in Hyde Park, a space of debate and protest for over 150 years, to support one another, make visible their concerns and take up space in public.
Since 2020 the group have been developing a booklet designed to create a network of care for new mothers throughout Westminster. The booklet centres the experiences of POC and migrant women and will feature a letter to new mothers, strategies for survival and an illustrated map of local services. It will be distributed via health visitors in new parent packs over the course of 2021. Everyday Resistance is a Changing Play commission by Serpentine Education. Changing Play is an ongoing partnership with the Portman Early Childhood Centre in Westminster, which brings together artists, children, families and educators to critically reconsider early years education and care.
Jasleen Kaur was born in Glasgow and is now based in London. Her work is an ongoing exploration into the malleability of culture and the layering of social histories within the material and immaterial things that surround us. Her practice examines diasporic identity and hierarchies of history, both colonial and personal. She works with sculpture, video and writing.
Recent and forthcoming presentations include exhibitions and projects at the Wellcome Collection, UP Projects, Glasgow Women’s Library, Market Gallery, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Eastside Projects and Hollybush Gardens. Her work is part of the permanent collections of the Government Art Collection, Touchstones Rochdale and the Crafts Council.
The Portman Early Childhood Centre
The Portman Early Childhood Centre provides education, care and family support services for young children and their families living in the Church Street area of Westminster, North London. These include a nursery school, adult education classes, family support, employment services, parenting groups and workshops.