Prompt 4: The lifetime

GSMD-500 | Grad Studio 1
Prompt 4: Inquiry

It was after the Open Studio that I decided to shift my focus away from using food as a medium to connect the Zoroastrian diaspora youth to their culture, roots and tradition. I did this as I am hoping to experiment with other mediums; I may revert back to food, but till then I will try other ways to do so. My first attempt to do so was with my previous prompt where I used Zoroastrian symbols.

For this prompt, I focused on trying to narrow down my question, I did so by breaking it down to: How may we connect the Zoroastrian youth to their Culture, Traditions and Roots?

And even this question has so much I can unpack from it, for example, Which traditions, culture and roots will I tackle? Who exactly from the Zoroastrian Diaspora Youth am I going to make my target audience? How can I connect them?

To start off I decided to conduct an interactive brainstorming technique known as the Crazy 8. The Crazy Eights technique is a great way to produce a wide range of diverse ideas from a group of people. The question I asked was: What does Community and Culture mean to you?

Using the Crazy 8 Brainstorming techniques I asked people from my cohort to answer the question above. I also asked 7 Zoroastrians; 2 from Karachi, 2 from Toronto, 1 from India and 1 from Dubai, to participate. 
The results from this brainstorming session can be seen below. I found them to be very eye-opening and interesting.

1.2 – The Analysis:

From the top choices, I was fascinated by all the rituals my participants drew and explained to me in this process. This made me think of all the rituals we have as Zoroastrians, which made me take a deep dive into researching what those are.

2.1 – Zoroastrian Rituals:

Like other religions, Parsis have certain customs and rituals that make them unique.  The different types of rituals and ceremonies range from when a person is in their mother’s womb to when they first learn to sit on their own to when they eventually depart from earth. Every Parsi at one point in their life will go through almost every ceremony there is in the Zoroastrian faith.  It all starts with the moment that a child is conceived, that is where every story begins and that is my project also begins. 

2.2 – The visualisation of these rituals:

With the help of Cameron I noticed how the above timeline of Zoroastiran rituals were infact almost a calendar of sorts, which is not based off of years, months or days, but off of a human life, and the rituals are the pinpoints of birth through death and beyond.

It represents the important unit of time as human life, and the measurements are the traditions. The focus is on what it means to be a human in time within a community.

I selected 4 rituals and created visualisations for them:

Prompt 3: The Parsi Pack

GSMD-500 | Grad Studio 1
Prompt 3 : Discourse

The idea of ‘reading through making’ is one that excites me even after the completion of my project. Typically it is the opposite way around, so to be able to ‘Make’ from a reading intrigued me. However, initially finding the best reading for this prompt was quite difficult. I was adamant to find a reading that I enjoy and could possibly connect with my interests.

1.1 – The Reading:

After going through most of the readings in my syllabus, I finally found an article that I could connect with: “Print Culture and Decolonizing the University: Indigenizing the Page: Part 1” by Marie Battiste. The article is a collection from the book “The Future of the Page“, which presents the best of recent critical theory on the history and future of the page and its enormous influence on Western thought and culture.

Indigenous peoples throughout the words have used a wide array of forms and systems of communicating or writing or remembering that have shown similarity in strands of symbolic designs, meanings and functions. Early Indigenous literacy in America was largely symbolic and ideographic, reflecting a unified vision of knowledge and thought from one continent to another – Marie Battiste

Battiste talks about how the Indigenous peoples would communicate through symbols, which were explained from one generation to the next through oral communication. She goes on to explain how the European “travellers and missionaries destroyed, transformed or simply ignored most Aboriginal literacies”, calling them primitive. This was due to the fact that they were unable to comprehend the symbols and what they represented.

1.2 – My takeaway:

A connection I was able to form was how as Zoroastrians we have many symbols, however a lot of the youth, including myself, do not know exactly what they represent and symbolise.
For this reason I decided to tackle this problem though this prompt.

2.1 – Brainstorming for the Icons:

I began by creating a mindmap of all the important icons that were either religiously or culturally relevant to the Parsis. Some were those that I knew myself, while others were collected from a coffee table book A Zoroastrian Tapestry: Art, Religion & Culture.

As the main component of my assignment was symbols, I realized the best way to have others learn them and interact with them, was though our use of Chalk stamps.

2.2 – A brief history of the Parsi Chalk stamps:

Historical accounts maintain that the Parsi Chalk designs were adapted when the Parsis (Persians) settled in India over seven centuries ago. They were given shelter in Sanjan, Gujarat, by Jadi Rana who understood the importance of an inclusive society.  

Jadi Rana is a figure from the Qissa-i-Sanjan, an epic poem completed in 1599, which is an account of the flight of some of the Zoroastrians who were subjected to religious persecution following the fall of the Sassanid Empire and of their early years of resettling in India. Inexorably,  the Parsis adopted five of the cultural traits of their new homeland. One being the use of Chalk stamps for celebratory rituals.

Parsis use perforated lightweight metal chalk boxes into which white chalk powder is put and stamped on the damp floor. A dash of red, orange, pink, green and yellow chalk colours are added to enhance the patterns. The designs are mostly floral with symbols of good luck; fish and horseshoe. Quotes in English and  Gujarati such as “Good Luck” are also common. Typically the chalk stamps are used for auspicious occasions such as birthdays, weddings and Navjots.

2.3 – Chalk trays:

2.4 – Chalk patters:

2.5 – Reaching out:

I also reached out to a Facebook group ‘KIDS of Parsi Colonies, (Karachi & Global) ‘. Where I received an overwhelmingly positive response from the members.

3.1 – The stamp:

After gathering reference images of different chalk stamps that are available I started to create my own templates of the icons selected.

3.2 – Testing out the DIY Stamp :

4 – The Kit :

The DIY kit includes Precut frames for the stamp, a pin, Precut foil paper & a Booklet. The Booklet was designed, keeping in mind the main outcome of my project: to disseminate information about the icons, as well as to explain how to use the kit.

Each spread contains an illustration of the icon, a brief description and a unique QR code, which can be scanned in order to retrieve the Stamp I have designed for the audience to use.

The Parsi Pack :

Prompt 2: The Spice Pack

GSMD-500 | Grad Studio 1
Prompt 2 : Material

Clay, Paper, Coding, Thread… these are just some of the materials I have always wanted to work with; but as soon as we were explained the brief, I was fixated on working with spices. I use spices every day to cook, but I do not know much about them.

The Daily Practice:

My daily practice was threefold. After I had chosen a spice for the day, I would begin thoroughly researching it. I would research into the plant that the spice came from, where it is cultivated and which countries it is being traded to. I would then look into the facts about the spice and all of its benefits and detriments; along with the non-culinary uses of the spice, for example, Turmeric is used in a holy bath ritual known as pithi ceremony, which is a pre-wedding ceremony in India. 

I then went on to experiment with the spice itself. On a sheet, I played around with its texture, colour and even taste (I would taste the spice and with a pencil, I would create a line of what I could taste). I would create audio clippings of the sound made as I was experimenting, for example when pealing garlic or cutting into chillies. I then would use these cuttings to create patterns and textures on the sheet.

The final step was finding a recipe in which my spice of the day was the hero. Many recipes were those I have grown up eating/drinking in my hometown Pakistan or recipes passed down from generation to generation in my family.

The Synthesis:

After collecting all this information and experimentation over a week, I decided to create the Spice Pack. Each Pack contained information about a single spice. I used an accordion-style fold, to divide each section of information on the spice.

Step 1: Staining the paper
Each sheet was stained with a mixture created with water and the powdered version of the spice. Unfortunately, many of the spices did not mix with water to create the texture, and therefore I would boil the solid spice until it created a colour.

Step 2: Drawing
I then continued to create a detailed outline drawing of the spice in its plant form. Along with this, I gave a few pointers on the plant and its spice.

Step 3: Mapping
Something that stood out to me was the locations where each spice was grown and traded to. To represent this I began by mapping out these locations on the paper. I then used cut pieces of the spice (or the spice itself) to represent a geotag of the locations.

Step 4: Recipe
For the next section, I added a recipe that…..
The recipe was printed on butter paper, to allow the user to be able to still see the stained paper in the background.

Step 5: Textural Exploration
For the final section I decided to share with my audience a textural exploration of the spice. I began with creating the base made of the powdered form of the spice. To add more to this texture I placed pieces of the solid spice ontop. Some spices such as the chilli had seeds which I also used to add to the texture.

The Spice Pack:

Each Spice pack has its own translucent slip which contains it.

Prompt 1: Travel Keepsake Box (TKB)

GSMD-500 | Grad Studio 1
Prompt 1 : The Gift
My fellow studio-mate for this Prompt: Greyson Kelly

It was the first time I met Greyson in person. We sat down and had an interesting and informative chat. We discussed each other’s backgrounds, where we came from, what we have studied and from where. We went on to talk about what our passions are in life and what we both hope to achieve through our masters.

Greyson is outgoing, positive and very passionate about his work. He shared his interest in Anime, Manga, dungeons and dragons, Legos (which we share in common), and Typography. But it was after talking about this that I could see his eyes light up when he spoke about his passion for Travelling.

He explained how he had made a plan with his friends to visit Japan in the summer of 2020, however, because of the pandemic this plan fell through. Being an avid traveller myself, and one who had a trip cut short because of the pandemic, I felt his pain. He explained,

“I was excited to experience the culture, the food. See their typography.”

To many travelling, is a way to escape, to relax and take a deep breath away from your everyday life, while to others, travelling to a new country is to experience that country and all it has to offer. Their culture, their food, their way of living. It is about embracing their rich history and diverse community.

Who is Greyson?

After our talk, this was something that stuck with me. I wanted to gift him something that would make him feel like all is not lost with this trip, and that once the pandemic is over he could once again plan his trip!

But how do I do this? How do I create something for Greyson that’s interactive and therefore gets him excited to plan a trip for after the pandemic ends (which let’s be honest, we don’t know when it’s going to be)?

I had now deduced from our talk about his fondness of building with Legos, that Greyson liked to work with tangible objects (as a break from the design work he does on the computer), and with things that have a step by the step building process. And that he has many fond memories of part trips he had taken.

But what happens when you come back from this trip? Do you forget about it completely? Throw away all the little mementos? Or hide them in a box tucked deep away in the back of your closet? No! You use the specially designed Travel Keepsake Box (TKB). This TKB was created for Greyson for two reasons. It was a way to encourage him and remind him that one day in the near future, he will be able to take that trip he so longed for; as well as to use this as a way to keep the memories of his trip displayed.

“Hey Greyson,
I know you’ll make it to JAPAN soon.
So don’t hide your souvenirs in a scrapbook!  I want you to use this shadow box to remember your epic trip!
– Leea”

I design a 4 by 4 pocket zine, which was framed inside a shadow box, that also contained a small vial and some thumbtacks. The zine is a step by step guide to collect souvenir’s and other objects as he takes his trip to Japan. The vial is provided so that he can “take a bit of Japan home” with him. The thumbtacks were also provided to him so that he can complete the Pin Your Map activity. The final page of the zine depicts what the box will look like once completed and decorated.

Throughout the zine, I have used simple symbols to depict each activity, as well as a spot colour that continues till the last page. Inspired by the Japanese flag, a red circle has been used near each title as well.

But wait… there’s more. Don’t throw away the zine once you’ve filled up your TKB!
Open it, flip it around and use it as a poster!

Greyson in Japanese

Reflection: This prompt allowed us all to open up, and learn a lot about one another. It was a great experience to be able to gift someone something that is not off the shelf but was a gift with thoughts and feelings attached to it. It was meaningful and personal. It was a gift exchange where I was able to give Greyson something to keep him motivated and excited about what the future has to hold, all the while representing a little bit of myself in it.

So there you have it Greyson! Your own personal TKB!
Have fun displaying your memories of all your trips.