When recently roaming the internet I stumbled upon the art project “Conflict Kitchen” by Jon Rubin and Dawn Weleski in Pittsburgh, USA. It captured my interest and got my admiration.
This is a project about cultural identities of countries and of people whose origin is different from ours. What makes Conflict Kitchen so special is that it features countries with which the United States are in conflict. The team sets out to create awareness and understanding by introducing us to the people of a focus region via their own voices and customs.
“Conflict Kitchen is a restaurant that only serves cuisine from countries with which the United States is in conflict. Each Conflict Kitchen iteration is augmented by events, performances, publications, and discussions that seek to expand the engagement the public has with the culture, politics, and issues at stake within the focus region. The restaurant rotates identities every few months in relation to current geopolitical events.” (conflictkitchen.org)
Conflict kitchen aims to promote understanding.
“Operating seven days a week in the middle of the city, Conflict Kitchen uses the social relations of food and economic exchange to engage the general public in discussions about countries, cultures, and people that they might know little about outside of the polarizing rhetoric of governmental politics and the narrow lens of media headlines. In addition, the restaurant creates a constantly changing site for ethnic diversity in the post-industrial city of Pittsburgh, as it has presented the only Iranian, Afghan, Venezuelan, North Korean and Palestinian restaurants the city has ever seen.” (conflictkitchen.org)
In 2014 Conflict Kitchen began serving Palestinian cuisine.
“Our current Palestinian version introduces our customers to the food, culture, and politics of Palestine. Developed in collaboration with Palestinians in Palestine and Pittsburgh, our food comes packaged in wrappers that include interviews with Palestinians on subjects ranging from culture to politics. As is to be expected, the thoughts and opinions that come through the interviews and our programming are informed by personal perspective and history. These diverse perspectives reflect a nuanced range of thought within each country and serves to instigate questioning, conversation, and debate with our customers.” (conflictkitchen.org, Dec. 2014)
This choice became controversial. On November 8th the restaurant closed down because police received a death threat against it. Conflict Kitchen posted on their Facebook Page:
“We have received a letter today containing death threats and we will be closed until the credibility of the letter can be established by the Pittsburgh police. We hope to reopen shortly.”
By now Conflict Kitchen has reopened and still serve Palestinian food. The team’s work represents a core value of the society they live in – freedom of expression. The death threat against them violates this very value.
Conflict Kitchen stimulates dialogue. They offer alternative points of view on the focus regions they feature. They challenge politics and personal prejudice or beliefs, they encourage reflection and further communication amongst individuals across personally pre-conceived or politically promoted borders. They provoke discussion and debate. They share information with us that is shaped by the personal experience of the people whom they are lending a voice.
Thank you for taking a stand.