By Preeti Singh
‘Home is where one starts from’
From “Four Quartets” Part II: East Coker by T.S. Eliot
How does one start from home, more so, if you are in its Kitchen?
What does it mean to go back to an erased history from an everyday-erased space?
Caught in the course of feminist deconstruction, the ordinariness of the Kitchen space is like a lifeless mammoth laden on shadows of people who are rammed in its architectural joints. Even if it is dragged out of its confines, it merely attains a status of menial.
By December 1919, India had raised a total of 877,068 combatants and 563,369 non-combatants for WWI to be sent along with British soldiers to Mesopotamia, France, Gallipoli, and Persia. There were the ‘Followers’ or ‘Coolie Corps,’ below the status of Sepoys, embodying the (non)incidental space of the war zone. The jobs/roles of the Coolie Corps were to cook; clean the battle fields like removing the wounded or dead, do the laundry, carry loads, fetch water and work as sweepers. These so called ‘unwarlike’ people were thought to be only good for performing menial jobs during the Great War.
home to war KITCHEN
is an attempt to look at Kitchen as a gendered space in households to enquire about domestic job/roles within the militarized space in times of war. Thinking around its huge contribution to systems we inhabit every day where interestingly the labor history associated with particular roles remains absent, the project is a journey between and a dialogue across spaces inhabiting these ‘menial’ works. Its initiation from the personal space probes an imagination of a possibility to look at the war through the Kitchen space wherein one cooks and is simultaneously informed about geo-political happenings through the media. Through this singular access point, the project delves into the non-heroic face of warfare - the beginning of which is situated in homes.
This performance is a devised piece of spatial configuration and performative dialogue which creates exchanges and networks between various characters, spaces, objects and stories looking from the home to the war Kitchen, trying to unearth structures of operations, hierarchies, and division between various jobs/roles and activities taken up by these multiple narratives. It seeks to invoke the audience for an engagement with the Kitchen space in a context which is far away in imagination and through that situate the domestic in the military setup via the personal.