A two year project directed by Dunya Kalantery with eleven-year olds from Earlsmead Primary School in Tottenham: a multi-ethnic school situated in a historically diverse area experiencing rapid urban development, where levels of childhood obesity are at a national high. This project works to move beyond individualised and penalising descriptions of unhealthy eating and poor health, and to work against negative self-image cycles caused by poor representations of race, class and ethnicity. By celebrating and securing relationships between the body, community and city, it aims to build resilience by focusing on our connection to our environment, and to inspire children to value themselves, their health, and their relationship with what nourishes them. The project uses film-making to empower children through self-representation, using imagination and storytelling to interrogate and explore how our food, our communities, our urban surroundings and our cultures create supportive environments for both our bodies and our health.
You Are What You Eat takes inspiration from new scientific enquiry around the human microbiome, which shows that our bodies are intrinsically connected to our environment through bacterial colonies which effect our health, happiness and choices; and epigenetics – which shows us that through genetic expression, our bodies are archives of environmental, historical, and familial experience.
The first series, filmed in Summer 2018, starts with a trip down West Green Road: an exploration of the food culture of Earlsmead Primary Schools’local area, gut science of the microbiome, a how-to of lacto-fermentation and tracing the origins of our favourite foods on a local farm in Enfield, London Grown. Scroll down to watch the first series.
The second series, filmed in Summer 2019 and to be launched this autumn, takes us on a journey of who we are, where we are and the challenges we face. With the help of some favourite foods – Instant Noodles, Plantain Crisps, Spiced Buns and foods containing palm oil, we’re taken, via personal stories, on a global ancestral journey of trade and migration, a political debate and an awareness campaign of the global effects of individual local action. Drawing on projects completed in class about the environment and migration, and the local issues that were most keenly occupying the childrens’ minds – mental health, street crime, and the need for young peoples’ voice to be heard.
Beginning with a child-led walk through Seven Sisters, the children gathered an archive of images and objects that told stories about themselves and their lives. This archive created the material basis of the short films that they then created through play, interviews, research and storytelling. The children devised, wrote, designed, produced and edited the series of films over several weeks, supported and guided by artist Dunya Kalantery, editor Ciaran Wood, and filmed by Leo Dawson.
You Are What You Eat is the result of a long standing relationship between Dunya, Earlsmead Primary school, and Create: and builds on the knowledge, experience and relationships gained during the lifespan of Chicken Town: a not-for-profit restaurant supported by Create which offered a healthier alternative to the growing number of chicken shops on the high street within the context of a city-wide obesity crises. The restaurant aimed to work with, rather than stigmatise, the culture of chicken shops and the choices of young people. It closed in December 2017.Produced and directed by Dunya Kalantery, filmed by Leo Dawson, edited by Ciarán Wood. Commissioned and supported by Create London
You Are What You Eat is part of We Can Create – Create’s youth programme kindly supported by Bank of America, with additional support from the Garfield Weston Foundation