“Only 15 or so years ago, when you went to a Chinese restaurant in Australia, barely anyone would be using chopsticks. So why not try eating with your hands next time you go to an Indian restaurant?”

In 2009, performer and arts curator Jiva Parthipan launched Handfed, a travelling dining event that looks at the cultural issues around food and civilisation. This Sunday, Handfed will put theory into practice at the Museum of Contemporary Art as part of the gallery’s Conversation Starters series. The weekend of workshops, films and performances will explore the themes and issues raised by Algerian-Parisian artist Kader Attia, whose work (currently showing) explores repair, power and colonialism.

On eating with his hands, Parthipan explains that there is a kind of emotional satisfaction that can only be gained from eating with all of our five senses. “I would go so far as to say that when I eat Indian food with my hands I feel fuller, more satisfied, compared to when I eat it with a fork.” Those who grew up eating with their hands will often tell you that the experience is deeply satisfying, but it’s hard to describe why.

“That’s why I’m calling it a ‘performative breakfast’,” he continues. “Here in Sydney, and worldwide, there are so many ideas festivals. Sure, there are ideas involved in the Handfed event with the MCA, but this event is more to do with the doing. It’s about embodying the idea.”

Expect homemade dishes such as rice with coconut and cardamom; spiced lentil donuts; and gulab jamun soaked in rose and pistachio syrup. Expect also lessons on etiquette, a question and answer session, and performances by Indian classical dancer Rakini Devi and a “hairy drag diva” called Radha La Bia. We’ve been told that the latter will be playing with food, perched on a bed of banana leaves in a costume of sequins and silk.

Kader Attia is currently on display at the MCA until July 30 2017.

Handfed takes place at 9am on Sunday June 4.


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