This July the Museum of London Docklands will open a new free display, Feeding Black: Community, Power & Place, in its London, Sugar & Slavery gallery. The exhibit will draw on collaborative community collecting to explore the central role food plays in Black entrepreneurship and identity in South East London. Food is central to what it means to be part of a diasporic community – one that demonstrates the connections Londoner’s have with the rest of the world. For many years, entrepreneurial food businesses have thrived across South East London feeding and providing produce from home to African and Caribbean communities. Feeding Black will spotlight four of these businesses, and their owners, to explore how they are much more than the services and goods they provide to their communities, but act as vital spaces to untangle questions around politics, culture and heritage in an ever-changing city. The four collaborating businesses and owners include:
- Livity Plant Based Cuisine – Owned and run by two sisters, Kaleema and Kareema Shakur-Muhammad in Croydon. They provide healthy plant-based Caribbean food as well as a variety of herbs and natural products sourced from Jamaica.
- African Cash & Carry – Originally from Cameroon, Eugene Takwa moved to the UK to study marketing. After identifying a gap in the market, he joined his brother and opened the African Cash & Carry. Based in Woolwich, the shop has stood as a multi-dimensional space, serving West African cuisine and providing services to transfer money ‘back home.’
- Junior’s Caribbean Stall – Junior arrived in the UK from Jamaica at age 23. After working multiple jobs and helping his uncle in a market stall in Catford, he was able to start his own food stall in Woolwich in 2007 where he sells African and Caribbean fruit, veg, seasoning and even homemade soups. His business is known as the ‘Harrods of Woolwich.’
- Zeret Kitchen – Based in Camberwell and owned and run by Ethiopian Tafeswork Belayneh, who is the author of the vegan cookery book ‘Zeret at Home.’ The kitchen attracts people from across the country with its popular vegan offering after evolving originally from a typical English fry up café.
Feeding Black will represent these stories through carefully selected objects, recipes and videos along with newly commissioned photography by Jonas Martinez and original oral histories and soundscapes by Kayode ‘Kayodeine’ Gomez, – all of which will be collected and considered for acquisition by the museum for its permanent London collection. Aleema Gray, Community History Curator (Curating London), said: “The Black-owned food businesses featured in Feeding Black are more than places for buying or selling food and goods – they provide sites to negotiate memory, heritage, power and belonging for their communities. They all demonstrate the multiple relationships we share with food; for some, food has provided them with a way to survive and thrive in London, whilst for others, it has given them an opportunity to preserve their heritage. The project as a whole, and the physical exhibit’s location in the Museum of London Dockland’s London, Sugar & Slavery gallery, provides an important and unique opportunity to reflect on modern food culture and existing legacies around sugar and London’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade. With this, we hope Feeding Black will not only introduce the varied and rich aspects of the Black-owned food businesses that have shaped the identity of South East London as a whole, but will also open-up a dialogue with our visitors around understanding the sensitivities related to the appropriation of food cultures on a larger scale.” Feeding Black: Community, Power & Place is a temporary display opening 16 July 2021 in the London, Sugar & Slavery gallery at the Museum of London Docklands and is part of Curating London, a four-year contemporary collecting programme with funding from Arts Council England. The display will be free to view as part of a general admission booking to the museum until 17 July 2022 and will sit within a wider programme of events, still to be announced, that will explore our varied practices and understandings around food. Find out more and book tickets on the Museum of London Docklands website HERE.
Photo credit: Sisters Kaleema and Kareema Shakur-Muhammad who run Livity Plant Based Cuisine in Croydon. © Jonas Martinez/Museum of London