As designer, editor and founder of Chutney, can you tell us a little bit about your own background and what led to the creation of Chutney?
I was born in Pakistan and moved around quite a bit growing up, eventually immigrating to Canada, which probably explains my ongoing interest in the complexities of cultural identity. Chutney was created somewhat in response to the white supremacist attack on two mosques in Christchurch back in 2019, and the subsequent mishandling of the story in the media, which to me was yet another example of the double standards that exist when representing communities of the global majority. I was in architecture school at the time, but decided to put time into a magazine that may not necessarily address these issues, but offer a space for those who shared my frustrations to share and reclaim their narratives on their own terms.
Your content is divided into three sections: “Chop, mix and preserve”, using the steps for making actual chutney as a recipe for its structure. Can you explain how this works?
Rather than having a specific theme per issue, the stories are instead organised into these loosely defined sections, which provide the magazine with some structure but are not overly prescriptive. ‘Chop’ opens the issue with shorter pieces that are slightly more fragmentary, often introducing readers to a topic or snippet of cultural identity. ‘Mix’ deals with cross-cultural influences and intersectionality, while in ‘Preserve’, writers reflect on their positions within the histories or legacies of others. Stories can often fit the criteria for multiple sections, which I believe reflects their interrelatedness and helps to ease one section into another.
Can you explain why you chose the Risograph format and how that impacts on Chutney?
For the first two issues, Risograph offered the right balance between an affordable method for producing the magazine, but with incredibly rich results. It lends itself to its own design process. Working within a limited colour palette and embracing the slight imperfections that are inevitable as part of printing offers a slightly more unrefined but tactile experience for the reader, which helped to enhance the personal aspect that is central to Chutney’s visual identity. The layering of the inks, which are translucent and rub off on your fingers, set the tone for the vibrant aesthetic that lends itself to the celebratory nature of the magazine.
What can readers look forward to in issue #3 of Chutney?
Readers will get a taste of: Iranian funk, Yaffa oranges, Campofilone, grape molasses, leftovers, classic cars, papercuts, swamps, sculptures and Sherihan, through essays, interviews, photographs and more. Plus, a round up of additional resources on culture and identity, as recommended by the contributors themselves.
We spoke to Mouna Anajjar from I Came for Couscous last year and she spoke about there not being one Arab culture but many with each country having a thousand specificities. As a Muslim immigrant of colour, what Western preconceptions do you feel you are countering through the pages of Chutney?
I wouldn’t say that there are specific Western preconceptions that Chutney seeks to challenge. After all, I think it’s important that the stories within are appreciated for what they are and not necessarily perceived relative to the Western gaze. That being said, by emphasising individual experiences within collective contexts, my hope is that the magazine challenges the notion of communities as monoliths. Mouna is absolutely right — there are so many layers and nuances to cultural identities within cultural identities that it’s impossible to characterise culture in binary ways of thinking. So, rather than explicitly trying to debunk stereotypes fabricated by the West, for example, the focus is instead on honouring the story of the individual, and how that may offer a way of us understanding each other a little better.
What is the power of print in 2023?
Print offers something tangible to hold in one’s hands and spend time with, with the possibility to pass it on to someone else. It transfixes stories at a certain moment in time, to be revisited again. With print, the emphasis is not solely on the content, but one is able to appreciate how that works in tandem with its physical form — the texture of the paper, the type of binding and the ink on the page all combine to create their own individual experiences for readers. It feels like a memorialisation of sorts, which I don’t think you can replicate exactly online. But there’s certainly space for both to coexist.
Issue # 3 out now.