From the trenches of the Indigenous Terra Madre 2015

04 Indigenous communities from Nagaland at the conference
A delegation from Nagaland in their indigenous attire

Love makes the world go round, as the saying goes. But Food is what sustains us. And a meal cooked with love is like the proverbial cherry on the cake – nourishment of not merely the stomach but of the soul. In November 2015, Shillong in Meghalaya, North East India, hosted a mega-event that recognized and celebrated the traditional food ways of the global indigenous peoples.
The Indigenous Terra Madre 2015 (ITM) consisted of various programmes revolving around food to bring people from varied backgrounds together: to knowledge-share, to taste; most of all to rejoice. The global and the local, the village cook and the restaurant chef, the rural and the urban rubbed shoulders, experienced one another’s foods & flavours, learned, exchanged and emerged richer from it.
On the first three days, a closed door World Indigenous Conclave saw various experts on agro-biodiversity, farming, ecology and traditional food ways discuss the issues of the day. On the sidelines, Taste workshops exposed the audience to various food groups indigenous to the Northeast and beyond. These included Honey, Wild Edibles, Fermented Foods and Insects which some of the gathered delegates sampled with trepidation but found them to be rather palatable.

03 Northeastern communities putting up a cultural performance at the opening ceremony
Northeastern communities perform at the opening ceremony
01 Shillong Chamber Choir performance at the opening ceremony
Shillong Chamber Choir performing at the opening ceremony
02 Shillong Chamber Choir performing with dancer Astad Deboo at the opening ceremony
Shillong Chamber Choir performs with dancer Astad Deboo
13 Variety of honeys served at the Taste Workshop
Taste workshop- honeys
08 Insects platter at the taste workshop
Taste workshop- insect platter
06 Panel discussion
Snapshot from one of the many panel discussions
09 Red ant chutney with millet pancake served at the Insects Taste Workshop
Taste workshop- red ant chutney
05 Indigenous communities from the Phillipines at the conference
The delegation from Philippines is all smiles
10 Silkworm platter
Taste workshop- silkworms
12 Selection of wild edibles at the taste workshop
Taste workshop- wild edibles
11 Silkworm preparation with millet pancake served at the Taste Workshop
Taste workshop- silkworm paste with millet pancake

In fact, the spirit of the event lay in the knowledge sharing between the delegates coming from 50+ countries and the 40+ local host villages. On the fourth day of the event, the delegates travelled into rural Meghalaya for a day trip to experience firsthand the food ways, culture and heritage of the host communities. The villagers enthusiastically prepared traditional menus and performed cultural programmes for delegates from all over the world.
The closing day was marked by a Food Festival, open to the public, which over 70,000 people attended. Without a doubt, the centerpiece of the festival were the 40+ Mei-Ramew (Mother Earth) Food stalls, a celebration of local foods, that served as platforms for agro-biodiversity and cultural representation. These stalls not only served food but gave voice to the expression of traditional food and agriculture and brought conviviality and multiculturalism into play by bringing people together to discuss, exchange ideas and highlight issues related to the challenges that indigenous people face hence rendering a sense of ownership. These food stalls glamorized indigenous food preparations through innovative, creative and attractive presentations.

15 Food being enjoyed at the Mei Ramew food festival
Visitors enjoying the fare at the Food Festival
14 Array of stalls at the food festival
Array of food stalls at the festival

The cultural exchange, transcending the barriers of language and backgrounds between these disparate worlds, is what the heartbeat of such an event is – proving that when communities that are closely bound to Mother Earth, they can never be too far from each other.

IMG_3204
Northeastern musicians in the spotlight
IMG_3203
Impromptu performance by musicians from different nationalities

All photos © Amrita Ravimohan, Ajay Nayak & NESFAS

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