we come together,
and come together again.
in an endless rhythm, since the first vibration Aum
subatomic particles, coalesce. distant stars explode.
human and non-human, cells bloom and split
the seeds in soil hold, green toward sunlight grow
stems and ears stand gold erect, heads knowing with treasure bow
in laboured hands they collect, when brutally threshed they scatter
full grains gathering low, empty husks wind takes blow by blow
individual grains give into the grind, sift into a flour residual
now fine tiny particles, with water gently swirling bound
torn into many handfuls, formed into flatbread rounds
placed warm in many mouthfuls, making many mortals
we come together, we separate, and come together again.
This work was inspired by folk stories and myths surrounding the legend of Jalaram Bapa, considered a Saint in his native Gujarat, who practiced spirituality through providing food for any that came to his ashram. The region's King at the time donated two millstones so Jalaram could grind grains to make flour. Rotla, a traditional flatbread was and is made and served to all visitors to the ashram in Virpur to this day.
The day of the event, coincidentally (though unplanned) fell on the day after Saint's birthday (the seventh day of the month of Shukla, which fell on 19th Nov 2023) This day was also a specially powerful day astrologically as the planet Ceres (whom ancient Greeks considered the Goddess of Grains was in a very powerful aspect with the Sun and Mars.
Before the grinding, during the day Rebecca and I threshed and winnowed the grains, separating the husks from the kernels. It was satisfying work, and often felt cathartic and required a level of toughness, applying force to enable the husk to come away from the grain. We experimented using various different actions to blow the chaff away once it had come loose and this was in contrast a playful and more gentle action. The process drew out of our bodies both brute force and refinement. Using our bodies in this way allowed us to know the Grain, to feel it's journey, experience it's language and hear it's voice. We were in dialogue with it throughout the process.
Once the grains were cleaned of any husks and debris they were ready to grind. Members of the public had been invited to come and grind the grains and make rotla to eat together. As evening arrived people huddled in from the cold. We talked about the stories of the grains, about the seed sankalpa and the summer harvest. Some of those who had taken part in the sowing and harvesting were present to share their experience with others. I asked people to use their intuition, listening to their bodies and senses to inform and instruct them when grinding the grains. First we used the hand pestle and mortars, and then we used electric stone mills. We then each took some flour in a bowl and made dough, again using our intuitive senses. Once the dough was ready we created rotla, which were shaped into flatbreads by hand, then roasted on a smooth flat griddle pan or tawa. The bread was shared with everyone tasting the different variations created by everyone. To accompany the flatbread we had an artist made chutney courtesy of Janhavi Sharma, made with green tomatoes from Primary's Garden, and some we made using the pestle and mortars with fresh herbs from the Garden.
In the spring seed sankalpa ceremony, I had read aloud the Palestinian Poem: The Seed Keepers, and now six months later the world was witnessing the most recent and horrific violence of the Israel-Palestine conflict. It felt poignant to re-read the poem again at the end of the session.
The grains that were sown in the seed sankalpa ceremony and then harvested in the summer were collected by Kimberley Bell, who runs Small Food Bakery at Primary. Kim works with local growers and millers to develop sustainable food for the local community and is host to UK Grain Lab.
I was invited by Rebecca Beinart, curator of the Noursihment Programme at Primary in Nottingham to hold an event using the Grains of Wheat, Barley Rye and Oats we had sown in the spring and harvested in the summer to devise and hold this session in Nov 2023.
Gratitude to Rebecca Beinart of Primary for inviting me to hold the session, and to Ismail Khokon for recording the event in the beautiful photographs below.