In October, two intriguing artists in residence provided creative insights to environmental justice issues through the lens of a dancer and a chef. Jody Sperling is a dancer, choreographer, and dance scholar who explores environmental activism through movement.Chef Kabui is an internationally celebrated organic chef, urban farmer, and food activist.
Jody Sperling is a dancer-choreographer from New York. In a polar science mission to the Arctic, she worked alongside scientists aboard a US Coast Guard icebreaker. During the expedition, she danced on the ice cap. She was inspired to create a dance expressing the fragility and dynamism of the Arctic. Her company, Time Lapse Dance, and their project Ice Cycle can be found here: http://timelapsedance.com/works/ice-cycle.
Sperling’s residency at Skidmore included opportunities for intimate discussions with students in environmental studies courses, dance classes, and freshmen seminars. Following a film screening of Sperling’s dances, an engaging panel including staff, faculty, and student perspectives explored the communication of climate change phenomena through art. A week-long workshop gave students the opportunity to work with Sperling to choreograph an on-campus performance, where students acted as powerful “movers” in shaping their own destinies and the destiny of the planet. The dance sought to illuminate the interconnectedness of the global climate system and stimulate cross-disciplinary thinking on the roles that science, art, and activism play in responding to the crisis.
Students from Sperling's workshop perform their final piece.
Chef Njathi Kabui was born in rural Kenya to a coffee farmer mother and restaurant owner father. Immigrating to the United States at the age of 20, Chef Kabui earned Masters degrees in both Medical and Urban Anthropology at the University of Memphis and a Bachelors in Political Science and Philosophy Studies at the historically black LeMoyne-Owen College. He now leverages his rich legacy by sharing his extensive knowledge of farming, culinary skills, and food justice as he travels across America, Europe, and Africa. He is committed to changing the way society views food, justice, and sustainability. Kabui also leads community farming groups in the United States and Africa to promote food sovereignty, and he frequently lectures on the intersection of food, sustainability, and race. Learn more about his work by visiting his webpage: https://www.chefkabui.com
During his three-day residency, Chef Kabui visited a variety of classes including Eating and Being: Food, Culture, & Identity, Sustainability and Social Justice, and Politics of Food. He delivered a campus lecture addressing his own life path, and how his work on African identity and food and culture can celebrate heritage and underscore sustainable food systems. He got a taste of campus life with a tour of the Skidmore Community Garden from the student garden manager, and he met with the African Heritage Awareness Club and SkidEats. Kabui also rolled up his sleeves to join Skidmore chefs in the Murray-Aikins Dining Hall to prepare an African dish to feature for dinner.