A discriminating selection of ferally traded groceries, hand-sourced from their producers and traded outside the commercial food sector.
A hamper is place where diverse grocery items congregate – a shelter from the wild currents of global food migration. Here, products from El Salvador, Bangladesh, India, Croatia, Montenegro, Brazil and UK cluster. The items assembled here are shadow commodities - familiar staple groceries but run outside the global market. Some are home-manufactured (grappa from Croatia) or subsistence-surplus (turmeric from Bangladesh); other items (tea, coffee) were produced as commodities but diverted from the open market by direct intervention of the trader.
Feral Trade is an economy based on other people's activities and how you get from A to B. The goods compiled here were transported largely over moving social networks. Feral Trade taps the spare baggage capacity of preexisting traffic, often using funded cultural travel to transport groceries internationally.
The hamper hopes to explore the proposal that the commodity is the opposite of the commons as it conceals human relations except for the money relation, while the product of the commons is filled with human relations, including possibly uneasy ones.
12 Feral Hampers were assembled and presented for raffle and sale at FoAM in Brussels, November 2008, with contents as follows.
Feral Trade is an artist-run grocery business, trading goods over social networks since 2003. It emerged from an impulse to secure personal relationships with key food commodities using only email and mutual acquaintances. This coffee was sourced from Cooperativa de Caficultores Nonualcos R.L. (CODECANO) in El Salvador via an artist friend's sister's colleague. The coffee is ordered by email, mobile phone and bank transfer, roasted and packaged on location and driven to the airport in San Salvador by CODECANO farmers. Shipments are met at London Heathrow airport by Feral Trade and transported by motorway to the Cube Microplex in Bristol where it is warehoused for onward distribution under the cinema seating. Circulated entirely by hand baggage across UK, Europe, Australasia and North America since 2003, the El Salvadorian coffee forms the core currency of the Feral Trade project.
A new product, discovered on a supermarket shelf in Dhaka, Bangladesh and followed back to source in order to better understand its provenance. A journey to the heart of obscurity, to trace the motives, methods, means and morals of the contemporary commodity. This single-estate Orange Pekoe tea is ecofarmed in Tetulia, remote north of Bangladesh, by Kazi & Kazi Tea Estates, part of the Gemcon group of companies. The tea refers to itself as “the most organic tea in the world”, in its blog. Whilst only on the market since 2006, K&K Tea are already exclusive tea suppliers to the Dhaka Sheraton and other five star hotels. The tea garden is the personal vision of Gemcon Chairman, former Army colonel Kazi Shahed Ahmed whose two sons also hold executive roles in the business. On visiting the tea garden - Anandogram which means Pleasurevillage - Feral Trade was shown formerly arid lands regenerated by herbal shade trees, cows producing organic biogas, an Ayurvedic research centre and 8000 pre-stressed spun concrete electricity poles awaiting deployment around the country. Gemcon have been manufacturing poles here since the mid 1980s and are sole electric poles provider to the Bangladeshi Government. Their corporate compound in nearby Panchagar where Feral Trade stayed as company guest, was originally bought as land for mining sand and stones for the poles, a now illegal activity due to massive local desertification brought on by humus collapse. Due to overextension of the national electicity network (without sufficient energy supply), it is possible that the electric poles business might soon come to a standstill. The tea (foil-packed teabags or loose leaf in jute) was purchased direct from Mr Khan, Marketing Director, at Gemcon corporate HQ in Dhaka, Bangladesh and flown back to UK in Feral Trade's Emirates hand luggage.
Neem, grown in its millions as shade trees on the K&K Tea Estate. The perfect convergence of Ayurvedics and capitalism, every part of the plant can be used. On the Kazi Estate, the Managing Director's residence is built entirely from neem wood. Mainly cultivated for oils for pesticides, antibacterial, medicinal and beauty products. Highly concentrated and bitter, use with care.
The Feral Trade salt originates from the coastal plains of Gujarat in western India. On a visit to their native state Gujarat, Mr and Mrs Solanki (parents of UK artist Sneha Solanki) travelled to the infamous town of Dandi in an attempt to salvage natural sea salt from Dandi beach. Dandi was the concluding point of Ghandi's Salt Satyagraha (Salt March) in 1930, an illegal act of direct action against the high taxation on salt by the British colonial rule. As there was very little salt available to harvest from Dandi beach Mr and Mrs Solanki brought this Gujarati salt from a small local chemist. The salt was packed in their luggage and freighted Dandi to Brussels via Gujarat, Mumbai, London, Leicester, Newcastle, Bristol and London.
A kitchen style rakija (Croatian for grappa) sourced from its infusion lab at the home of Mrs Danica Kuzmanovic, a qualified medical practitioner and mother of FoAM director Maja Kuzmanovic. Walnut, Sage and Honey, Fennel, Lemongrass, Limoncello and Lemon flavoured. Classic Istrian grappa, made in Pula and airfreighted to Brussels in FoAM hand baggage.
This popular spice was purchased at Khagrachari farmers' market in the Buddhist Chittagong Hill Tract area (CHT) of Bangladesh, where forced resettlement and armed tribal counterinsurgency have continued on and off since the time of the British Raj. Feral Trade, in Bangladesh for a residency, travelled 6 hours by train, 1 hour by taxi and 5 hours by hired van to navigate the police checkpoint which at times denies foreigners entry to the Khagrachari district for political reasons. The turmeric is slope-grown locally on otherwise unfarmable land of up to 60 degrees gradient via the Government-prohibited 'jhum' method of shifting cultivation - slash and burn - practised by the local tribespeople and blamed by some national newspapers for drastic deforestation in the area (to not mention other, non-indigenous activities of massive teak plantation farming, hydroelectrics and jungle clearance for military camps). Jhum farming uses seed balls to co-plant up to 15 different arable crops ranging from cotton to bananas, harvested gradually over the year. Feral Trade stayed the night in Beltoli village as guest of jhum farmer Mrs Roaza, mother of Bngladeshi artist Joydev Roaza, in a room also occupied by a wild bee hive. Fresh turmeric from Mrs Roaza's mountain-side plot and dried turmeric bought the next morning from the local market was transported back to UK in van, taxi, coach and Emirates luggage.
'Domaca Radinost', to use the description of Feral Trade's Montenegrin translator Jelena Stanovnik's kayak club instructor - meaning the old Soviet word for 'home-manufactured' - in the town of Bjelo Polje, Montenegro. Bjelo Polje is productively positioned on road/rail mainlines between the port (Bar) of the world's newest country, and markets in the world's newest landlocked country, Serbia. The walnut flavour Ratluk is the more expensive one, as people recognise walnuts as value. The walnuts are sourced within 50km of Bjelo Polje; the sugar is Brazilian, the world's cheapest, imported direct through the port of Bar, thus enrobing the local in the global. The original owner of the company designed the box art himself on his desktop computer to connect tradition with modernity, although the company was subsequently bought by trader Mirko Vukasinovic who runs it as part of his import-export portfolio including Bosnian coffee, light bulbs from China and Orbitz chewing gum. The sweets are trucked to shops and supermarkets around the region, particularly Kosovo. Mirko studied management and started a business while still a student. He wants a house along the new - illegal - river settlement in the Montenegrin capital Podgorica. A swimming pool, perhaps a small football stadium, host a meat festival. Further trade opportunities went cold after Feral Trade's translator turned down Mirko's offer to accompany him on a weekend in Zabljak to relax on his boat. 26 500g boxes were shipped back to UK in the Montenegro Lines, Easyjet and Ryanair baggage of Bristol residents visiting Montenegro on summer holidays: 24 consignments arrived intact, one box lost in transit, one partially squashed.
Open-source cola, wildcrafted in Bristol UK since 2003 by Kate Rich and Kayle Brandon, a production process merging domestic and scientific methodology. One Mini (14ml) cola concentrate will yield approximately 4.5L Cube-Cola. To ensure the viability of the Cube-Cola recipe which includes essential oils from citrus, herb and floral origins it is necessary to suppress the variation inherent in organic materials. Accordingly, Cube-Cola sources gum Arabic for emulsification in freeze-dried form from CNI World, the world's leading producer of hydrocolloids. The caramel colouring (for colour) is from DD Williamson, world leader in caramel colouring, who also supply Pepsi and Coke. Due to the relatively miniature scale of Cube-Cola operations, micro-supply of these ingredients was negotiated via email with their industrial producers. The concentrate is distributed to subscribers worldwide using airmail and paypal. Full cola recipe and mixing instructions can be found in the Cube-Cola tea towel, enclosed.
This raw cacao bean in shell hails from Bahia, a massive cacao cashpot. Plantations date back to colonial times, their lawns sport lavish white landowner houses. The cacao is little used or appreciated locally, except perhaps in condensed milk cocktails: production is entirely for the export market. Recent blight has meant the cacao produced is worth a little less - it still sells but the quality is lower. This cacao was grown on a farm called Pura Vida, named by English tourists who bought it and decided to make the farm a collective property via selling shares. Investors can visit whenever they like, although as foreigners they can't live there all the time for visa reasons. The cacao workers - usually itinerant - were asked to stay on and cultivate a garden to feed themselves, run the cacao plantation as a business. Most of the workers are not literate and have trouble with the bookkeeping. A recent visitor to the estate, UK artist Lottie Child, described the arrangement as straightforward compassionate colonialism. Visitors to the plantation can spend all day eating and watching donkeys work. The cacao was exported in hand baggage of two Pura Vida shareholders, Sam and Elin. A local man, Gilson, ferried them across the river in his boat to the nearby town of Ubaitaba. The cacao travelled by bus overnight to Salvador from where it is a short plane ride to San Paolo from where the cheaper international flights to London Heathrow depart. The cotton bag the cacao arrived in has Bahian seed burrs gained in transit still clinging to it. Lottie Child went to St Peters newsagent in Islington, London to pick up the bag - Sam and Elin live next door - then cycled to Govinda Hare Krishna restaurant in Soho to deliver. Along with other hamper products, the cacao was transported to Brussels via wheeled suitcase, train, tube, Eurostar and FoAM company car. Recipe suggestion: grind up a handful of cacao, handful of oats with water and honey in the blender for breakfast. There is no need to remove the shell.
Feral Hamper agents, couriers, translators & hosts Abu Naser Robbi, Jelena Stanovnik, Joydev Roaza, Kate Rich, Kayle Brandon, Lina Kusaite, Lottie Child, Maja Kuzmanovic, Nik Gaffney, RicardoYglesias, Sam & Elin, Sneha Solanki, Mrs & Mr Solanki.
Institutional hosts & sponsors Britto Arts Trust, Cube Microplex, FoAM, Gasworks, Porapara Space for Artists, Polytechnic, Triangle Network.
Feral Hamper Research produced at FoAM, Brussels. Kate Rich November 2008