THE Athenaeum, Numb City Productions and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) School of Music, Art and Design presented The Trinity Session’s survey exhibition and public space intervention in Port Elizabeth, Central and Grahamstown during the National Arts Festival last week which featured a segment on the diaspora food experience in suburb of Central.

‘Eat Central’ proved a unique concept that encouraged “citizen art” through an invitation to students from the NMMU School of Art and Design, and other keen participants, to venture through the streets of Central.

The evening chose itself. With the sundown setting a warm glow, the occasion was met with an unexpectedly warm winter night.

It all began with an invitation to students from the NMMU School of Art and Design, and other keen participants, to venture through the streets of Central. These visitors were challenged to seek a vendor of their choice, who could offer them a taste of African foods within the CBD, enjoy an exotic meal and shoot video footage of their experience.

They were also encouraged to engage in conversation with the owners enquiring as to how the food was made and what it meant to them culturally back home. This experience was envisioned to bridge a gap between foreign nationals in the community of Central and ordinary local South Africans living in Port Elizabeth.

The video footage collected was edited and screened to guests at the recently revamped Trinder Square Park on Bird Street on the opening night of the Trinity Session “Temporary but Permanent” exhibition at the nearby Athenaeum.  

If you have ever passed a foreign national restaurant in Central, the air brews with an unfamiliar aroma that is often unappreciated. The Eat Central screening bestowed on its audience an appreciation of what delights are actually prepared in these small shops and of the magic carpet taste experience would-be journeymen can enjoy.

Hosting the screening at Trinder Park offered a sense of inviting warmth to the occasion, and what a great setting that was. It gave one a different perspective of the park and of the potential such communal spaces have in the city. Considering the common local perception, many wouldn’t expect to see Trinder Square look so beautiful. Its transformation into an artistic hub - in its final stages of metamorphosis – has brought out its true character and made it into what it always was supposed to be.

Described in the words of audience member Kay Swarts:

“It was wonderful seeing how one can use the concept of food and how various cultures prepare their food, as a way of art. The projection was used effectively, instead of the artists printing pictures or giving a long presentation. One could relax and sit back while everything was shown to you. The atmosphere was great, and the presentation of the Ethiopian food was something different. I felt that it was a good way to expose us to the food of the people of Central.”

It was exciting for the Athenaeum and Numb City Productions to share in the experience.

-- By Sibo Sontsonga