Coming soon… #FMP
A0 print for some FMP work.. #design #photography #culture
The publication is getting there..
“Glorious, isn’t it?”
#england #weather (at Abbey Gardens)
Grids in the sun (at Winchester)
New work in the making… @ewebber (at Winchester School of Art)
I never said it was going to be easy, but this weekend was a bit of a shock and wake up call to me. There’s always talk of what a ‘hard day’s work’ entails, and let me tell you, working in K&K in Lewisham IS a hard day’s work. Attempting to serve and re-stock ‘afro food’ 7 days week, 7:30am to 8:30pm is not easy, especially if you’re Pakistani and most of your customers are Nigerian, Jamaican, Chinese, Polish and some even English (I mean this is England after all right?).
I turned up on Saturday ready for work, I met Nawaz Ali who I had met the week before, he introduced me to another employee called Faisal who works on the grocers section and straight away I was unpacking boxes and stocking the shelves with Maggi seasoning cubes.
Come 10am the shop started to pick up pace and it got really busy, I had customers constantly asking me where certain foods were and of course not only could I hardly understand them but I also had no clue of what food they were after and where it was stocked.
After an hour of re-stocking the shelves and speaking to the employees they gave me a bit more responsibility; Faisal handed me the ticket gun, told me to price each item and make sure I stick the label away from the sell by date. We then got talking about all different food they stock and the amount of ethnicities they cater for. I asked him ‘where does all the food come from?’ he told me ‘each foods comes from many countries’, he pointed out some examples to reveal them coming from: China, Nigeria, Jamaica, Turkey, Norway and more… I asked him about the cow’s feet, turns out they’re sourced from Ireland. He explained to me that they don’t import all the food, but that they source it from many different companies and cash and carries.
By 11:30am Faisal had cooked a lamb curry upstairs in the stock room area, he then brought it down and all the employees took turns eating it on shop floor. By now I had gained their trust so he called me over, put some in a container and told me to choose a drink, took me upstairs to the kitchen and gave me some pitta bread to eat with it. I was very grateful, it was probably the best curry I’ve ever had, no knifes and forks business - hands only.
After lunch I continued to work with them in the grocery section, I could tell the other employees wouldn’t have been too happy with me working in the butchers area or the fruit/veg area as they all had their own responsibilities which I didn’t want to intrude on.
Later on quite a loud argument broke out between one of the butchers and a customer, I remember seeing him pick up the meat he had just cut and bagged for her, slammed it down on the table and they both started shouting abuse at each other. I think she had changed her mind or meant for him to cut a different part of the meat. This is where things get difficult, there’s a lot of dialect and culture clashes, often the two different races find it hard to understand each other and sometimes it can escalade into larger issues. Don’t get me wrong it’s not all bad, for most of the day the customers and staff get on extremely well and you can tell there’s a great sense of community.
What really stuck out for me was the countless amount of material culture that comes from all over the world, forming this multi-cultural hub that generates an atmosphere that you won’t get it in many other cities. I’m sure many of us know that London boasts having a ‘world in one city’ but this K&K shop really does support that notion through food alone.
The next day I focused on collecting more research, finding out where all the food comes from, what ethnicities buy certain foods and learnt some general business knowledge about they operate.
There are many aspects I could focus on, so I might have to drop or ignore other factors later on. I’m currently working my way through 983 photos as well as hours of voice recordings and video…
Before Fosters, I never even knew what Ethnography, Cultural Geography or Anthropology even was (not that I’m now an expert) but it seems I just naturally stumbled into producing work in the way an ethnographer would; immersing myself in the environment and undertaking what is known as fieldwork. I did the same for my Value of Things project, where I studied consumers in a particular environment, recording everything they say, do, buy etc.. and I think it’s safe to say this is how I produce my best, and arguably, most valuable self initiated work.
So step forward K&K Butchers & Grocers. I’ve spent the past two days in two of their shops, one in Lewisham Market and the other in Peckham (SE London), observing the multi-ethnic community whilst speaking to the staff and customers. After being away from this environment for so long, it feels refreshing to come back to it with an open mind, spotting things that I would have once ignored: the sound of the cow feet being chopped and sawed through, the customers shouting at the staff in another language as they want the bananas for £1.60 not £1.76 or the man at the front selling Lyca simcards so you can call other countries for 1p per minute (and buy bling bling iPhone cases of course). This whole environment once seemed the norm to me, but by being away from it for so long I’ve realised it’s uniqueness.
Take a look at the photo I took below, that’s Faisal with his cousin, they work in the shop in Lewisham for their Uncle Abdul. On Saturday I asked Faisal if I could meet the owner of K&K - his eyes opened, he told me that that was Khushim and Khudabash Muhammad, that they own around 30 of the K&K meat grocer shops in South London and this shop just uses their name like a franchise would. He said if I wanted to meet him I’d have to go to the Peckham head office to speak to Abdul who owns the shop in Lewisham to arrange a meeting with Khushim.
Off to Peckham I went, I searched for Adbul in the other K&K grocers but couldn’t find him, then one of the staff members said if it was Kushim Muhammad I wanted to speak with, he’s next door getting his hair cut so I could go and try to speak to him. As I stood outside the hair salon I was a little sceptical, he didn’t look like he’d be happy to see me or have me interrupting his hair cut, one of the other employees went in and told him who I was and what I wanted. I saw him look at me through the window, then with a subtle grunt he turnt to the employee to tell him he didn’t want to know and doesn’t want to speak with me. Luckily the employee felt a bit sorry for me and was a university student himself, turns out he was also the son of Abdul who owns the shop in Lewisham and told me I could find him in another grocers a few shops down.
Finally I found Abdul, told him who I was, how I’ve just spoken with his son and that I’m interested in doing a documentary/observing the culture of his shop in Lewisham. At first he was reluctant to give me any information, but once I told him I was a university student and had met his son and Faisal in Lewisham he seemed to warm up to the idea. I then asked him if I could work for him in the shop next weekend for 1 or 2 days to gain an understanding of the business, he laughed and asked me if I wanted to chop meat? I said yes! Offering up my free labour skills, we shook hands and he said he doesn’t mind, I can take photos, work with the staff, whatever I want. Cool guy.
I’m currently working through my research, ticking with ideas on how to develop this project. Stay tuned next week when I’ll let you know how I get on working in the shop, and if you’re in Lewisham feel free to come and laugh at me, or just say hi, whatever.
p.s. Cui Su wrote a lovely review of Fosters recently where she talks of ethnography by design not for design, make sure you check that out here.
What is it worth? &
What would you pay?
New work coming soon…
#design #photography #culture #consumerism #things