Come for the food,
stay for the culture
Cousoumeh Collective aims to foster meaningful collaborations and create safe spaces for connectivity through food + art; two mediums that provide us with means to sustain both ourselves and our wider communities.
Cousoumeh customises each experience by engaging meaningful dialogue with partners across the Caribbean and the diaspora, identifying and expanding on affinities between our contexts. Every event is crafted around a collaboratively determined theme, using the acts of gathering, sharing food and conversation as a social practice project; exploring what can be achieved by affording our creativity, thoughts and ideas the opportunity to combine, ripen and reach maximum richness.
Cousoumeh Collective currently comprises two core members: Katherine Kennedy, a Bajan contemporary visual artist, writer, curator and cultural practitioner; and Shanice Smith, a Trinidadian contemporary visual artist and art observer.
Cousoumeh (pronounced coo-sue-may), a creolised word of French and African origin, can be loosely defined as to allow ingredients/food to simmer or marinate for an extended period of time. In doing so, it facilitates the release of flavours, adding that extra 'umph' to the pot. Examples of this can be found in popular Caribbean dishes like Pepperpot (Guyanese), Callaloo (Trinbagonian) or even Oil Down (Grenadian).
With this definition in mind, the fusing of different ingredients to create a single, unique flavour is what inspired the birth of Cousoumeh Collective. Though Trinbagonian (creole) in origin, we believe that it best describes the shared Caribbean history that is food. It is such a powerful coping mechanism, and oftentimes offers a place of comfort and community. Gatherings are and have always been an integral part of our customs. Food offers a safe space for us more than just a means of nutrition; it is history, it is tradition, it is culture, it is survival. It is also resistance in the face of adversity. For example, the scraps of meat that were once considered waste during the period of African enslavement are now prized, popular pieces, from oxtail (there have even been jokes around ‘make oxtail cheap again’ movements) to even pigtail - a beloved staple in Oil Down, sometimes added to Callaloo, and popular in Bajan cuisine.
We at Cousoumeh Collective at its core believe in the spirit and immense potential of collaborations, particularly through food. We seek to provide a safe space for Black and brown people, with a focus on Caribbean people and people of the diaspora to come together, whether to rejoice, to cry, to vent or just simply share experiences. It should also be noted that food does more than just offer temporary distractions from the happenings of the world; it provides us with the means to feed not only ourselves, but our communities. We all have similar stories, be it of an older family member, mothers or grandmothers, or someone - usually a matriarch - in our community/village who was known for feeding everyone, who always managed to conjure up a meal with little to nothing. This kind of resourcefulness, resilience, nurturing and ingenuity is the backbone of what Cousoumeh Collective aims to celebrate and amplify; to see what can be achieved by affording our ideas the opportunity to combine, ripen and reach maximum richness.