Leeds Church Institute Artist of the Month for March 2023 is food blogger, artist and cultural consultant, Freda Shafi

Freda recently invited a group of Leeds women from different faith backgrounds to a listening session at Aanya restaurant on Street Lane in Leeds.

The resident chef prepared a menu inspired by some of the stories Freda recorded as part of Leeds Church Institute’s ‘Food, Faith and Unity’ listening project. Sweet chai and lightly spiced dishes were shared and savoured. Tender moments of connection were recorded in preparation for an exhibition and tasting event to be held later in the year.

Freda’s work is concerned with the myth of scarcity and how different faith communities respond to the lack of base ingredients to feed both the body and the soul. Her mother joined the group, and shared stories of scarcity of herbs when she arrived in England in the 1960s.

Freda details the resourcefulness her Mother instilled in her and her sisters, as she grew vegetables and herbs alongside her Sikh and Hindu neighbours to create wholesome dhal to feed the family and friends.

From scarcity to abundance, these women of faith cooked together and developed a culture of encounter that spanned their religious differences.

‘Fruit of the earth and work of human hands’

The sketch of her mother’s allotment was created when Freda was a teenager, and the photograph alongside was taken last year. Freda explains, “These two images reflect the Food, Faith and Unity listening project, showing how scarcity of food forms some of our oldest faith traditions and rituals to be celebrated in a time of abundance. These traditions remind us of more difficult times. A reminder to live within our means and be resourceful and conserve what we have.”

The two artworks submitted by Freda Shafi can be seen until the end of March at Leeds Church Institute, 43 The Calls, Leeds LS2 7EY

Freda Shafi is a food blogger, artist and cultural consultant. Follow Freda on Instagram

For more information about ‘Artist of the Month’ contact [email protected]