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Posts Tagged ‘indian’

061820bunny_chow20indian

Photo: Ryan Lenora Brown/Christian Science Monitor
Ritesh Patel is the third generation of his family to run Patel’s Vegetarian Refreshment Room, one of the first establishments to sell the iconic food of Durban, South Africa — “bunny chow.”

Certain foods carry with them the unique history of a time and place. Such is the case with “bunny chow,” beloved in Durban, South Africa. No actual bunnies died for this vegetarian dish, the name of which is a linguistic misunderstanding. It all started with a lunchbox made of bread.

Ryan Lenora Brown writes at the Christian Science Monitor, “There are a few must-dos for any first-time visitor to Durban, a city of rolling hills in eastern South Africa. Among them: You must be sure to have a bunny.

“Wait, a what?

“Actually, bunny is short for bunny chow – but don’t be fooled. It’s not a rabbit, or a rabbit’s food. The Durban bunny chow is actually a hollowed-out loaf of bread filled with spicy curry, and it’s this city’s star culinary attraction.

” ‘A bunny chow is to Durban what a pizza is to New York,’ says Ritesh Patel, part of the third generation at Patel’s Vegetarian Refreshment Room, a takeout joint that is one of Durban’s earliest bunny chow peddlers. …

“There are many legends of the bunny chow’s illustrious beginnings, but they all share a few common features. For one thing, it’s undoubtedly the creation of Durban’s Indian community, most of which arrived here as 19th century indentured laborers, shipped in by the British to work the sugar-cane plantations and railroads.

“It also probably owes its name to the banias, the city’s early Indian shopkeepers. By the early 20th century, several were running lunch counters. And then one day, the legend goes, one of them had a novel idea: hollow out a loaf of bread and fill it with beans curry. Voilà: a kind of low-budget, edible lunch pail for workers at the nearby factories and shops. ..

“Some versions of the lore, however, offer a darker reason. In early 20th-century South Africa, people of different skin colors often couldn’t share the same shops, the same neighborhoods, and certainly not the same restaurants. Enter the bania chow, a takeout meal that black customers could eat on the road.

“Whatever its precise origins, bania chow morphed into bunny chow. Joints selling the curry bread bowls proliferated along the length of the Grey Street Casbah, a multiracial stretch of shops, mosques, and apartment blocks through the center of Durban’s downtown. …

“Like many pockets of multiculturalism in South Africa, the Grey Street Casbah was known for its music (jazz), its gangsters (feared), and its politics (anti-establishment). In the earliest years of Patel’s Vegetarian Refreshment Room, the restaurant shared a road with the offices of a fiery young Indian lawyer who’d gotten into politics after being kicked off the white section of a local train. His name? Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. …

“Today, Grey Street is Dr. Yusuf Dadoo Street, renamed for an Indian titan of the anti-apartheid movement. Zulu gospel music jostles for space with calls to prayer from the gold-domed Juma Mosque down the road. Hawkers sell fat green avocados, roasted corn on the cob, and 25 kinds of knockoff brand name shoes, while prospective customers stream by chatting in Zulu, Shona, and Lingala.” Food can surmount cultural differences.

Read more about the history of this signature dish — and its future — at the Christian Science Monitor, here.

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Photo: Portland (Maine) Museum of Art
The quilts of artist Gina Adams tell the tale of broken treaties.

Lately, I’ve been reading books that have given me a deeper, more disturbing understanding of American history. Of course I knew about slavery and broken Indian treaties and adventurism abroad, but I tended to slink away from knowing too many details. You can hide only so long. Two books I would recommend are the novel Underground Railroad and the history Ramp Hollow.

Artist Gina Adams found her metier in quilts about broken treaties. There are no shortage of those, she says. This article by Indian County Today recounts the evolution of her work “Broken Treaties Quilts.”

“Gina Adams’ journey to becoming a political artist began as she probed deeper into her Native roots. Trained as a painter and printmaker, Gina Adams made apolitical art for many years. …

“While studying the effects of post-Colonial trauma and assimilation at the University of Kansas, Adams identified feelings of remorse and grief in her own life, stemming from her Ojibwe-Lakota grandfather’s forced boarding at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania. Her art began to change.

“ ‘I realized how powerful it was to be able to speak about all of those feelings,’ said Adams, who lives in Longmont, Colorado. …

“ ‘Broken Treaties Quilts,’ involves sewing text from Indian treaties onto antique quilts. … Sewing the words of injustice, letter by letter, onto objects of comfort and beauty represents the turmoil that Indians have suffered. …

“Adams, 52, recently finished quilts about both the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie treaties, which she made in response to the Dakota Access Pipeline standoff at Standing Rock. She has made 18 quilts so far, and shown them from Maine to the Midwest. Wherever she shows her work, she makes a new quilt that’s relevant to the treaty history of that geographic area.

Her goal is to create a quilt for every U.S. state.

“There’s no shortage of broken treaties, she said, and all were populated with twisting, confusing language that purposefully misled people and subjected the treaties to misunderstanding and different interpretations.

“Adams has spent most of the past three years reading the treaties, word for word.

” ‘In cutting up these letters and reading and re-reading these treaties, you begin to realize how the language was meant to be confusing when they were written. They are still confusing today. They’re very duplicitous in their meaning,’ she said. ‘You can understand why the misunderstandings happened. …

“In Native cultures, the quilt transcends modern timekeeping. It’s been around forever, serving as a source of warmth and comfort, as well as a feeling of home and family. Quilting is also thoroughly American, she notes, and both the quilt and quilting bees symbolize community and the idea of working together. …

“Adams begins with antique quilts that she finds at flea markets and elsewhere. Many people also give them to her. She prefers quilts that are a century old or older, so they reflect the general vintage of the treaties she represents. …

“The process of making the quilts is time-consuming and labor intensive, and enjoyable, Adams said.

“ ‘It’s very contemplative. It’s very mindful,’ she said. ‘I so look forward to every single aspect of it, even when I am doing the detailed stitching on the quilt. It’s a really focused time. I am lost in my thoughts and just focusing on the work itself. I find it to be so rewarding.’

“Adams … descended from indigenous and colonial Americans. Her grandfather was Ojibwe and Lakota, and Adams has always identified with her Native roots. ‘I remember being 3 and 4 years old and going on hikes with my grandfather. He would talk to me and introduce me to plants and animals and things in nature in the Ojibwe language,’ she said. ‘He would tell me everything in Ojibwe and then translate it. It was a wonderful connecting point that stuck in my heart and soul and has been there my whole entire life.’

“Adams, who is not an enrolled tribal member, plans to take Ojibwe language classes this fall, to deepen her cultural immersion.”

Read about Adams’s quilting process here.

Hat tip: @WomensArt1 on twitter.

 

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Photo: Travel Blog
Crow Hop dance, one of several being adapted for exercise classes on the reservation.

A fitness program for members of a tribe in Idaho is showing results with its combination of exercise and spirituality.

Emily Schwing reports at National Public Radio, “In Indian Country, a gym membership is not a cultural norm and the incidence of heart disease and obesity are high. Native Americans are 60 percent more likely to be obese than non-Hispanic whites. The Coeur D’Alene tribe, whose headquarters is in northern Idaho, is trying to combat the problem by incorporating culture into fitness programs.

“The tribe has created an exercise routine — called ‘Powwow Sweat’ — based on traditional dancing. The program features a series of workout videos that break down six traditional dances into step-by-step exercise routines.

” ‘Drop the pringles and let’s jingle,’ commands Shedaezha Hodge, as she demonstrates the steps that make up the women’s ‘Jingle Dress’ dance.

“High steps, box steps, cross steps and kicks combine into a routine that would give any Zumba class a run for its money. …

“All the dances in the exercise program are typical at powwows, including the ‘Men’s Fancy Dance’ — which features four basic steps and a hip move. The hip move involves lifting your knee up, then circling it out to the side, all the while bouncing to the drum beat.

” ‘I lost 13 1/2 pounds,’ says Ryan Ortivez, who attends the weekly ‘Powwow Sweat’ classes at the Coeur D’Alene Wellness Center, in Plummer, Idaho. …

“The CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] has given the Coeur D’Alene tribe $2 million to develop ‘Powwow Sweat.’ It also supports a community garden on the reservation and a project that stocks the gas station market with healthy food options. …

“Mainstream fitness and nutrition programs don’t meet the needs of tribal members, [LoVina Louie, director of the tribe’s wellness center] says.

” ‘What they lack is spirituality,’ says Louie. ‘Most programming is only physical, or it’s only nutrition. It’s in these compartments — whereas we’re more holistic,’ Louie says. …

“It’s this combination of tradition and exercise that keeps tribal member Ryan Ortivez and his neighbors coming to class each week, to watch the videos and dance alongside each other.

” ‘It’s a lot more attractive than doing jogging or the bicycle for me, because it also relates to my culture,’ says Ortivez.

I’m in love with my community, first and foremost,’ he says. ‘My people. I love to see my community get involved and get active and be healthy.’ “

More here. Be sure to see the great little videos.

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With no wish to detract from the joy that Italians take from their countryman’s spirit of adventure or the pride that Americans feel for positive developments that followed the First Encounter, it’s hard to deny that it wasn’t the best thing for the people already living here. So without beating a drum that isn’t mine to beat, I’ll just share a gentle poem by a major Native American poet, a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. It’s a poem that is good for all people.

Eagle Poem by Joy Harjo

To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear;
Can’t know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
Inside us.
We pray that it will be done
In beauty.
In beauty.

More at the Poetry Foundation.

Update June 21, 2019: Joy Harjo became the first Native American US Poet Laureate in 2019. Click here.

Photo: Wikipedia
Joy Harjo in 2012.

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Photo: Star Tribune
Ojibwe poet Jim Northrup

I have been trying to learn something about tribal cultures in the United States. I liked Spokane/Coeur d’Alene tribal member Sherman Alexie’s Thunder Boy (a charming picture book for young children) and The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (an early, painful collection of short stories). Now I am reading some Native American poetry.

One poet, Jim Northrup, recently died. Here is a beautiful obit by Jana Hollingsworth in the Duluth News Tribune.

“Jim Northrup was a ‘tough man’ who taught his eldest sons to survive in the elements by living in a tepee on the Fond du Lac Reservation for several years, when money and jobs were scarce.

“But it was more than physical survival, said his son, Matthew, on Tuesday, the day after his father died from cancer-related complications. He taught them how to be strong in a world that didn’t treat everyone the same, he said, using humor — and education — as tools.

” ‘ “When you have really nothing else,” he said to me a lot, “you have your humor,” Matthew said. ” ‘When you grow up poor on the rez and when you grow up a lower class in society, you realize that.’

“Northrup, an award-winning writer of books, columns, plays and poetry — and a prominent member of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa — died [in July]. He was 73.

“Northrup was a storyteller, known for his stark and honest writing about his experience as a U.S. Marine in Vietnam and his early years at a federal boarding school. He was funny and pointed in his writings about everyday life on the reservation, politics and change in Indian Country. He wrote as a way to heal himself from some of the trauma he experienced during the war, he said earlier this year.

” ‘I knew my poetry was being used in vets’ groups to help people open up (and) maybe even write their own poetry as part of their healing,’ he told the News Tribune in March. ‘It worked for me, so I hoped it helped (others).’ ”

More here, where you can hear Northrup read a poem in Ojibwe about passing along the culture. Read the whole obit. It’s really lovely. I hated to cut it.

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It’s been sweltering in Southern New England lately, but one doesn’t want to stay indoors all summer.

Taking pictures can be a distraction from the heat. Some of the pictures I’m posting may actually look like they were taken on a cool day, but take my word for it, they weren’t. Even the indoor photo of my grandson and his construction project reminds me it was too hot to play outside last Thursday.

So, here’s what I have: A weed by the dry cleaner’s, Ragged Sailor (chicory) beside a lichen-covered rock, a Fourth of July reading outside the home of a former slave who fought in the American Revolution, my grandson, boats moored in New Shoreham’s Old Harbor, the Indian burying ground at Isaac’s Corner, a city scene on the Painted Rock, Crescent Beach swimmers, Bouncing Bet flowers at Fresh Pond, and yours truly reading Evicted and trying to stay cool.

To expand on a couple of these: I’m told that the Manissean Indians in the cemetery were buried standing up so they could walk into the next life.

And the Fourth of July reading at the home of ex-slave Caesar Robbins was amazing. First the Declaration of Independence was read, which was an eye opener for me because I remembered only the first lines.

Next, anyone who wanted to could read aloud a section of Frederick Douglass’s powerful 1852 Fourth of July speech on the lack of independence for so many people on that Independence Day. Hearing this speech, I could readily imagine how Douglass’s soaring rhetoric helped pave the way for the Civil War and Emancipation.

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I’ve been telling Suzanne and John about a free children’s hour on Thursdays at the Tomaquag Museum in Exeter, Rhode Island. I thought it sounded like fun for the kids.

According to the website, the program teaches “the history and culture of the Narragansett Tribal Nation through music, dance and storytelling. … Children’s Hour targets pre-school and homeschoolers during the school year and the families during school vacation. …

“Each week will have a different theme or focus. It will include music, dance, storytelling, engagement with exhibits and art or science activities. Each activity will be scaled to fit the ages and abilities of the youth. We will encourage peer mentoring between older and younger participants.

A typical Children’s Hour consists of: Traditional Greeting & Narragansett Welcome Dance (weather permitting); Narragansett Lesson/cultural concept (in our museum); Scavenger Hunt connected to theme where kids can explore exhibits; Social Dance to our Pavilion building; Storytelling/book share; craft or game depending on the content; Closing circle

The museum just won a national award for museum and library services. Executive Director Lorén Spears and Narragansett tribal leaders went to Washington last week, where Michelle Obama presented the award.

More here.

Photo: Tomaquag Museum Executive Director Lorén Spears

 

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