On my first day in Kumbakonam, the town where Chalice’s Tamil Site is based, my colleagues and I took an evening stroll through a residential neighborhood. I kept seeing chalk designs on the ground in front of the house’s doorway. Some simple, some more elaborate.
My colleague explained to me that this practice is called rangoli, or sometimes kolam. Residents, often women and girls, will draw fresh ones in the mornings and evenings in front of their homes. At times, such as on special occasions or during festivals, the designs will have specific means or honour specific deities. Sometimes they are just decorative and an opportunity to get creative.
One woman came out and offered to let us watch as she drew a fresh one for her home. Expecting a simple design like the ones I had seen before, I pulled out my camera, expecting to film the entire process in about a minute. But with a guest and a gathering audience, our artist drew an intricate design that took at least a quarter of an hour!
Throughout my travels in India, I was greeted with many beautiful and sophisticated rongoli designs.
Too bad in Canada, we tend to spend more time shoveling our front stoops than drawing in chalk!
— By Kate Mosher, Creative Specialist & Photographer at Chalice
Since 2015, Chalice has been partnering with Inverness County Cares, a Nova Scotian community group, to support the daily operations of St Charles Lwanga Secondary School, near Nairobi, Kenya.
St Charles Lwanga secondary school, just outside Nairobi, Kenya.
I was visiting the school, and my colleagues went into a meeting while I walked around the school to take pictures – I am the photographer, after all. I had made my rounds and returned to the headmaster’s office to wait for my colleagues to come for lunch. It became clear that lunch was going to be a while yet. So I went back out and hung out with students while they took their lunch break. Still no sign of my colleagues. But I realized the cooking staff were getting under way with preparing our meal. Thinking of those popular ‘recipe videos’ like on Mashable and Buzzfeed, I pulled out my camera and tried to capture the process of making…whatever it was exactly that they were making.
Chopping onions. Chopping tomatoes. Boiling water… aha! They’re making a stew! So, I got completely underfoot for the next hour or so while they prepared stew, rice, greens and other delectable items for my colleagues and me.
When I got home, I made my very own “recipe video” – but good luck trying it at home, because there aren’t exactly precise timings and measured ingredients.
Our meal that day represented many Kenyan staples. It included:
Beef stew – beef, tomato, onion, garlic, oil
Rice – classic and white!
Ugali – a staple for Kenyan cuisine – it consists of cooking either cornmeal, millet or sorghum flour in boiling water or milk until solidifies into a thick, doughy ball.
Stewed or braised mixed (collard) greens
Topped off with a beautiful, sweet, creamy local banana for dessert.
I had noticed that the students were also eating ugali that day, and theirs was paired with githeri, another ubiquitous staple meal, which really means any kind of combination of boiled beans and corn. It’s understandable why it’s popular – it’s highly versatile with flavouring, and it’s filling and nutritious when served with a starch — like today’s ugali, or perhaps a chapathi (a soft flatbread similar to tortilla or naan).
Serving plates of lunch at St Charles Lwanga
And with full bellies, we continued onto a highly productive day. My colleagues completed their meetings, and the students conducted a school-wide debate. Powered on nutritious food, there’s no stopping these young people!
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