Library of Land & Sea
Material Histories: Sands, Soils, Recipes and Other Archives
Project description

Recipes are archives of culture, migration, our histories and landscapes, and our connections to each other. Material Histories: Sands, Soils, Recipes and Other Archives is a research project by Johannesburg practice, Counterspace. The project works with recipes as archival and archaeological material to communicate socio-political narratives and material cultures in the Saharan region.

In Material Histories, food and its material constituents are explored as ‘species’ intrinsically tied to territory and ecologies, and informed by globalisation and climate change. Mapping and archiving spices and cooking methods and their relation to events in Casablanca and Cairo, the project uncovers hybridised food rituals, processes and events, and thus reveals the restitutional practice of cooking, as well as spatial and epistemological acts of care. A periodic table of land and sea, the project excavates and underlines potential histories and potential futures. Themes of politics, identity, sovereignty, migration, diaspora, species adaptation and movement dance allegorically alongside each other. 

On display are studies of ingredients at an elemental (almost microbial) scale, metaphorically referring to the scale of nations and continents.

Led by Sumayya Vally, Counterspace; in collaboration with Sarah de Villiers and Haytham Nawar.


Counterspace (South Africa) is a Johannesburg-based collaborative architectural studio led by its founder and principal, Sumayya Vally. Vally’s design, research and pedagogical practice is committed to finding expression for hybrid identities and contested territories. She is in love with Johannesburg. It serves as her laboratory for finding speculative histories, futures, archaeologies, and design languages, with the intention to reveal the invisible. Her work is often forensic and draws on performance, the supernatural, the wayward and the overlooked as generative places of history and work.

Counterspace is inspired by its location and is committed to developing design expression particularly for the African continent – through design research, publishing, pedagogy, buildings and other forms of architecture. The studio is an exploration into evolving methods of collaborative practice and research, and it operates adjacent to the academy, with Vally leading Unit 12 at the Graduate School of Architecture, Johannesburg, and collaborations on several research projects with the school and the City. Counterspace also runs Counterparts, a collective of interdisciplinary artists, researchers and designers in Johannesburg.

ARK Kültür
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