– Highlights


Pipilotti Rist: Sip my Ocean

01 Nov - 18 Feb


Jon Campbell: MCA Collection

04 Dec - 25 Feb


Word: MCA Collection

04 Dec - 18 Feb

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Contemporary Kids School Holiday Program

23 Jan, 10.30am, Level 3: National Centre for Creative Learning


Pipilotti Rist: Sip my Ocean [Unplugged]

23 Jan, 6.00pm, Level 3: Galleries


Spoken Word Series

03 Feb, 1.00am, Throughout the MCA

– News from inside the MCA

The Importance of Laughter

We sat down with laughter connoisseur Shari Coventry from Sydney Laughter to discover the truth about laughter and why we need it ahead of this month’s Laughter Sessions. more

Coming up in 2018…

Next year is one of the most exciting and diverse seasons yet. Find out what’s on. more

Six Films that Changed My Life (for better or worse): Antenna's Rich Welch

To pave the way for the soon-to-come cinema binge at Antenna Film Festival,Co-Director Rich Welch shared a few of his life changing films. more

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The Program promotes Australian art globally, helping Australian artists reach new audiences.

Blog – Handfed: no cutlery required

Posted on May 29, 2017 by Jiva Parthipan in Artist and curator Interviews.
For one weekend across Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 June, the MCA will be whirring with artists, speakers and curious audiences interested in probing the burning issues of today through immersive performances and events as we fire up Conversation Starters. One such event is Handfed curated by Jiva Parthipan. Handfed explores the traditions of eating in a performative breakfast experience. Jiva who grew up in Sri Lanka and the UK always ate with his hands at home but was discouraged from eating with his hands in public. Jiva gives us a short personal history of the cutlery-free custom.

Eating with your hands is one of the most intimate relationships you will have with your food. It is sensual, environmentally friendly, clean and your food even tastes better.

Having been brought up partly in a British-style boarding school in Sri Lanka, we were banned from eating with our hands and encouraged to eat with cutlery, though we always ate with our hands at home. Too often at South Asian formal functions in the West, I see people uncomfortably eating Indian or Sri Lankan cuisines with cutlery. It usually takes me and my family breaking the ice by using our hands and one by one others slowly start ditching cutlery. I still find this slow ditching cutlery ritual in public rather funny.

Many Indians, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans, Nepalese, Filipinos, Indonesians, Cambodians, Ethiopians, Pakistanis and others eat with their hands within the privacy of their homes. Years of colonisation has made us embarrassed of one of the most personal and intimate habits we have – eating with our hands, especially in public – and we are reluctant to use our hands to eat the very food which we love.

When Oprah Winfrey visited India a while back, she created a media storm by looking down at the Indians for eating with their hands. In Norway, there have been a handful of cases of kids of Indian and Sri Lankan children being taken into care for being fed by their parents’ hands. The social services misinterpreted it as force-feeding – and hence child abuse !

why do some cultures prefer to eat using their bare hands?

When people ask the question, ‘why do some cultures prefer to eat using their bare hands?’, I recall this famous story:

Former Indian President Dr Radhakrishnan met with Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill as they sat down for lunch. Before sitting, Dr Radhakrishnan washed his hands and as the meal was served, he used his hands when eating the meal. Churchill asked Dr Radhakrishnan, ‘Why are you using your hands? Use spoon and fork, it’s more hygienic.’ Radhakrishnan’s reply was, ‘Since nobody has used my hand to eat before, my hand is more hygienic than any spoon you can find.’

Today, the Western world is increasingly accepting of eating different kinds of food with our hands – burgers, chips, pizza, fruit etc. The use of cutlery has reduced dramatically and all too often we eat with just a fork.

Not too long ago, most ate Chinese and Japanese food with a fork. Now, using chopsticks is all the rage. Similarly, it’s time we made the jump and start eating rice and curry with our hands too.

So, I invite you to come and join us for a South Indian vegetarian meal at Handfed and learn the joys of eating with your hands. The meal is interspersed with performances exploring the theme of eating with hands by the indomitable hairy drag diva Radha Labia and the Classical Indian dancer turned performance artist Rakini Devi .

Drop the shame. Taste your food. Smell your food. See your food and we will also teach you to touch when eating your food…

What to know more? visit handfed.org, a website dedicated to the joy of eating with your hands. It includes video and downloadable pictorial diagrams of how to eat with your hands, articles, pictures etc. #handfed #ConversationStarters

Handfed is presented as part of Conversation Starters. See the full program of events here.

years of colonisation has made us embarrassed of one of the most personal and intimate habits we have

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Jiva Parthipan

Jiva Parthipan is a director, creative producer and arts worker based in Sydney and working internationally with dance, performance, film and inter-disciplinary art. His work has been seen at the Tate Modern (UK), Birmingham Rep Theatre (UK) ICA- Institute of Contemporary Art (UK), Liveworks at Performance Space (Sydney), and Powerhouse Youth Theatre Fairfield (Sydney). Jiva has a MA in Performance (Distinction) from Goldsmith College, London and was a visiting lecturer at the Central St Martins College of Arts 2003-2009.

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