Thursday, July 2, 2015

Art and Food Pairing™: I Know Why the Caged Bird BLINGS and Osè African Cuisine

“But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
His shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
His wings are clipped and his feet are tied
So he opens his throat to sing.”

Maya Angelou

The Backslash Gallery in Paris' 3rd arrondissement has once again mounted a one-man show of works by artist Fahama Pecou. The current exposition, entitled I Know Why the Caged Bird BLINGS, represents Pecou's tribute to writer and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou.

Pecou has been heavily influenced by Angelou’s autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. He modified the title of the book for the purposes of this show.

From Backslash Gallery:
I Know Why The Caged Bird BLINGS looks at the excesses of young African American black men who use ostentatious displays of wealth to assert an image; some of them become trapped in this system of values and, like Maya Angelou’s caged bird, find themselves unable to break free.

Pecou sheds light on these young men’s desire to reflect more deeply on the splendor of the black soul and the regal heritage of African cultures. He reminds us that BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL. The gold- and jewelry-laden bodies signify a desire to be seen as something other than victim or threat, with a nod to recent brutal police attacks on members of the black community, in Ferguson in particular.

Fahamu Pecou

From the artist:
My work seeks to provide a crucial intervention in contemporary representations of Black masculinity. I began my career experimenting with the branding strategies employed in hip-hop music and entertainment. These experiments ultimately led me to question not only the stereotypes engendered by the commodification of hip-hop culture, but more, to consider how the influence of historic and social configurations of race, class and gender impact and inform these representations.

Caged Bird 1
Fahamu Pecou
2013 Acrylic on canvas

Icarus - I carry us - I care for us
Fahamu Pecou

To read about Pecou's previous expositions at Backslash Gallery, click on the links below:

Hard 2 Death

NEGUS in Paris

I Know Why the Caged Bird BLINGS is open through July 25, 2015 (closed from June 23 to July 1).

After visiting the Pecou exposition, my husband Tom and I enjoyed a leisurely 10-minute walk from Backslash Gallery to a new African restaurant called Osè African Cuisine.

Osè African Cuisine
© Discover Paris!

This fast food restaurant is based on the concept of creating an African meal from four elements: base, sauce, "meat," and a condiment. The meal can be served in a microwave-safe box shaped like an ice cream carton (take out or eat on site) or on a wooden plate (eat on site).

You first select the "base," which consists of two choices - basmati rice or red "Gasy Mena" rice from Madagascar.

Then you select one of seven types of sauce:

mafé (peanut butter and vegetables), yassa (onion, lemon, green olives), ndizi (cream of banana), rasta (black beans, tomato, and Jamaican pepper), coco (coconut milk and spices), yola (yellow eggplant), gombo (okra and tomato)

that will dress your choice of beef, chicken, lamb, or shrimp.

Co-owner Morlaye Touré prepares a dish
© Discover Paris!

Finally, you select one or more of four condiments (or none, as you wish) - pepper sauce that is mild (ginger), medium (tamarin), hot (mango), or extra hot (Osè).

A beverage is included in the fixed price menu, which ranges from 10.60€ to 12.60€ for a medium or a large meal, respectively.

Osè is proud of its quality charter, which it displays in the front window. Gondo-Michel Diomandé, the restaurant’s chef, uses only natural ingredients to prepare the elements for Osè dishes, favors French-sourced foods and the shortest transit times from farm to kitchen, and uses no genetically modified foods. Chef Gondo also produces three organic beverages under the brand Thièfini that Osè clients can enjoy with their meal.

Quality Charter
© Discover Paris!

On the day that we dined there, owner Morlaye Touré was behind the counter. Because it was our first time at the restaurant, he allowed us to taste several sauces prior to making our selection. I decided upon the Ndizi sauce and thought that it would best accompany the chicken (diced breast meat). I took a bit of ginger pepper sauce and a bit of tamarin pepper sauce, not wanting to overwhelm the relatively delicate flavor of the Ndizi.

And because I am highly partial to the classic African soft drink called bissap, I chose a bottle of hibiscus drink as my beverage.

Poulet with Ndizi Sauce
© Discover Paris!

Tom was impressed by the Rasta sauce and chose beef as his meat. He decided to have tamarin sauce as his condiment and chose to drink Coca Cola with his meal.

Beef with Rasta Sauce
© Discover Paris!

We sat at a high table in the dining room, which is decorated in a minimalist style. A painting and a couple of chairs covered with a patchwork-like fabric were the only splashes of vivid color in this setting.

Osè dining room
© Discover Paris!

As is typical in African restaurants, the portions at Osè are copious. I had to choose between eating all of my main dish or forgoing dessert. I decided to take the remainder of my chicken and rice with Ndizi sauce home and eat dessert on site.

Tom and I both selected the caramelized mango cake for dessert. It was like a pineapple upside-down cake, with mango replacing the pineapple.

Caramelized Mango Cake
© Discover Paris!

We were both happy with all of our selections and enjoyed a wonderful conversation with owners Morlaye Touré and Gabriel Stein. We believe these young men have a successful venture on their hands and look forward to returning to Osè to sample other meal combinations.

Backslash Gallery
29, rue Notre-Dame de Nazareth
75003 Paris
Metro: République (Lines 3, 5, 8, 9, 11)
Open Tuesday through Saturday 11 AM – 7 PM

Osè African Cuisine
34, rue du Faubourg Saint Martin
75010 Paris
Metro: Strasbourg St Denis (Lines 4, 8, 9)
Open Monday through Friday: 12 noon - 2:30 PM and 6:30 PM - 10:30 PM; Saturday 12 noon - 11 PM


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