Suleman Faisal has approached Homing In as a research residency, carrying out a series of process-based interventions in numerous kitchens belonging to diverse households in Lahore. Through hosting participants as guests in their own homes, Namak Kahan Hai? (‘Where’s the salt?’) explores the hierarchies and relationships of control present in the kitchen while providing a cross-cultural overview of Pakistani domestic cookery. As a result the kitchen is revealed as an intimate and gendered space that acts as a socioeconomic and cultural barometer.
Hosting is intended as an act of generosity, however like all relationships, power balances are present. Namak Kahan Hai? complicates and disseminates these as Faisal hosts his guests in their own homes, cooking meals requested by them yet using his own recipes, as best he can with only their ingredients and equipment to hand.
Faisal’s performative investigation is influenced by artwork Rhymes of the Kitchen by Naila Mehmood, which documents an impoverished Pakistani woman cooking in a communal kitchen, and Faisal’s time spent as artist-in-residence with Vasl Artists’ Association. Greeted with surprise when cooking for himself and fellow residents, he realised how strongly the kitchen is considered a female ‘workspace’ in Pakistan, and thus that his culinary activities could constitute a feminist act. In Namak Kahan Hai?, we see Faisal’s male presence trigger moments of pleasant disbelief or slight unease, and gain an intimate insight into everyday lives and homes across contemporary Pakistani society.
Click here to download the critical text of Namak Kahan Hai? (in a pdf).
Namak Kahan Hai? by Suleman Faisal (2021) has been commissioned by Platform Asia for the Sudden Beams – Homing In programme. Supported by Arts Council England.
Find out more about the artist here.