For all the Mothers out there.
FOOD, WOMEN AND POWER SERIES: By Chrisantha Chetty.
This blog is a tribute to all the mothers in the world, whether you bore your own children or not. Being a mother is more than giving birth- it is a way of sharing with, caring for and supporting children. Recently I have been extremely broody. My biological clock is ticking and my body is increasingly challenging my mind’s decisions regarding children. I have been thinking about what it means to be a mother. To grow a human inside you, go through a painful labour and then to love it unconditionally until you die. Or to take a child into your life and bring it up as your own.
I am extremely lucky to have so many wonderful and supportive women in my life. Especially when it comes to mothers – I have plenty. My family believe in an ideology that every child is your child and should be treated as such. Following this belief I was brought up by a village of mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. No less credit to my mum though – she is the best and there is no competition.
I have three powerful mothers that I would like to write about: my Ama (mother in Tamil),Vasantha Thamaraivalli Chetty; my Aunty, Anne Gnanam Ardinarain and my Boss, Mariapaola McGurk.
MY AMA: VASANTHA THAMARAIVALLI CHETTY
What a cliché to mention my mum as one of my heroes but nevertheless she is and has inspired and motivated me throughout my life. She was always present at every event in my life, from sports games to concerts, no matter the importance she was there to cheer me on. One of the most humble and kind people I know.
My mum had me when she was twenty-five years old, after many heart wrenching miscarriages. Her and my dad really wanted a baby so after I was born they decided that my mum would stay at home and my dad would be the bread-winner. They are a great team with my mum being a great example of the neck that turns the head. She takes care of my dad as well as the rest of our family. My mum’s power is in her aura that is so welcoming and encouraging to anyone she comes across. Largely due to this energy, she is someone I think was meant to be a mum. She chose to be a mother and dedicated herself to being the best mother she could be. She is a mother to all and so much more to many others.
Motherhood is a responsibility expected of most women once they reach a “suitable” age. This of course varies depending on their communities and respective practices but I think it’s fair to make this generalisation in the predominantly patriarchal societies we live in. Many women have sacrificed their careers and passions to make and mould kids. To do work that is often undervalued, expected, and under appreciated. This very work being the crucial, nurturing, teaching and loving energy that is needed for society to survive. As an independent and educated woman that does not conform to societal norms (unless they make sense to me)- I still feel the pressure to have children.
MY AUNTY: ANNE GNANAM ARDINARAIN
My Aunty- my favourite aunty who is like a second mother to me. My aunt challenged the norms by never marrying or having children. She worked her way from the bottom ranks in a clothing factory to a designer. She was very influential on my interests in art, design and clothes. I began designing clothes as soon as I started drawing. Aunty bought me my first sewing machine when I was 8 years old. It was one of those toy plastic ones that performed basic sewing. My favourite place to go shopping still remains her cupboard, where I am sure to find treasures from thirty years ago. As a woman of colour, during apartheid, to follow her passion and make it in her industry is testimony to her greatness. She is still working and continues to love and spoil me. I will always be grateful.
I strongly believe most women comprise extra strength and power compared to most men. May be because men have had it so easy for so long or genetics? Someone once shared a theory explaining why women that are menstruating are not allowed to take part in some Hindu prayers. The theory is that men and women comprise of both masculine and feminine energies but when a woman menstruates she is tapping into her feminine and becomes extremely powerful. The feminine energy is more powerful and this can imbalance the energies during the prayer ceremony. I like this theory and think it explains the power in feminine energies, both in men and in woman, but also why women are more powerful- because women can tap into their feminine more directly. Although women have been discriminated against and their needs often treated as secondary to their husband’s or children’s needs, they still seem to persevere and in many cases succeed. It is my wish that these successes are recognised and celebrated more.
MY BOSS: MARIAPAOLA MCGURK
My boss is a great example of a woman who is doing it all. Mariapaola McGurk is a student studying towards her MBA; an artist practicing and selling artworks; a business owner running a successful, creative and social enterprise and a mother of three. Mariapaola started The Coloured Cube in 2014 and since then has been pushing the boundaries of what a creative business can do. She believes in making a positive impact within her communities and does so through many aspects of her work. An example is her encouraging all of her employees to up-skill themselves and offering to pay for it. She is also a member of the growing Makers Valley/Precinct where she continues to engage with surrounding businesses and interested makers in the area. She is power personified and juggles her responsibilities with strength and care. I admire her for being a role model to so many women- showing that you don’t have to choose between kids or a career; a great mentor that I am lucky to have.
There are so many ways one can be a powerful mother, whether you choose or life decides for you. It’s tough being a woman and even tougher being a mother. Yet women keep doing it and so our race lives on. Let me not be like so many men and not give credit where credit is deserved. A shout out to all the dads out there that support their baby mamas and work as a team to parent their children. A huge thanks to all the women in my life that continue to support me. Mothers, sisters and daughters- you are the inspiration that makes me keep moving.
I thought I could end with recipes from Vasantha, Anne and Mariapaola. Sharing food and cooking for their loved ones is an important part of each of their lives. Not as a duty but as a way to show affection and care. Feeding, eating and breaking bread together is an extremely valued practice by each of these marvelous mothers. I asked each of them for one of their specialties. Hope you enjoyed the blog and delight in these tried and tested recipes.
MORE MOTHERS I WOULD LIKE TO MENTION AND THANK:
Vasantha Thamaraivalli Chetty
Gnanam Anne Adinarain
Cookie Humsha Naidoo
Boy Aunty Ma
Resevoir Hills Ma
My Ama’s Rainbow Soji Balls Recipe.
My mother doesn’t really enjoy cooking so there are only a few dishes that she spoils us with on special occasions or on request. This recipe is and has been one of my mother’s specialities since I can remember. It is something the entire family looks forward to each year during Diwali celebrations.
My Aunty’s Famous Biryani Recipe.
Aunty is known as the biryani aunty in our family because she makes the most delicious biryanis whether it is chicken, mutton, fish or vegetables. She puts the most amount of love and care in to her cooking. I have many memories of her waking up super early to make biryani for late lunch or supper- individually frying her potatoes and carefully preparing her ingredients.
Mariapaola’s mum’s Pasta E Fagioli Recipe.
Food has been an important part of Mariapaola’s life. Growing up with a mother who spent time in Italy specifically to learn how to cook the recipes of their ancestors. It is a valued practice in her family and is something we both relate to strongly.
Chrisantha Chetty was born in 1988, and raised in Durban, South Africa. She is an interdisciplinary multimedia artist, art collector, architect, activist, blogger, performer, dancer, theorist, philosopher, curator, song writer, novelist, film maker, cook, designer, craftsman, tailor, photographer, journalist, human rights advocate, entrepreneur and perpetual student.
Chetty graduated with an Honours degree in Fine Art from the Wits School of Arts in 2014 and completed her Masters in Art in the Public Spheres at Ecole Cantonale d’Art du Valais in 2017. She is currently interning at The Coloured Cube.