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Miss Vlada Predelina
The Netherlands
Study Abroad Studentship

Mapping pelmeni

Drawing on her artistic practice and oral histories, Vlada Predeleina explores the meaning of home from a feminist perspective through the collective making of ceramics, naturally dyed fabric, printed patterns and cooking

Russian dumplings called pelmeni
Pelmeni Session 4, Vlada Predelina, 2021

My work looks into the meaning of home and sense of place through various mediums such as the collective making of food, natural dyes, bioplastics, ceramics and documenting uses of native plants alongside intimate discussions and situated histories. 

I am currently undertaking an MA in Fine Arts at HKU University of the Arts, Utrecht, where I am researching the role of tacit knowledge of women in relation to land and colonial expansion. This course is an ideal fit for my art practice and interests as it strongly emphasises socio-political contexts and has an ongoing relationship with neighbouring artistic research institutions and platforms: BAK and CASCO. 

I am interested in the role of women’s reproductive labour in connection to land, food and home. Over the first year of my studies, I gathered groups of women to cook pelmeni, a specific Russian dumpling with a name originating from one of the native languages of the Urals, the region where I was born. The dumpling has a rich hidden history and a national dish status. Through these conversational workshops, I collected oral histories of the past and of the current time. These were then published in an artist’s book, along with illustrations and recipes.

Cookbook showing recipe for pelmeni
Pelmeni: A Conversation Cookbook, Vlada Predelina, 2021–2022

Parallel to these gatherings, I have been researching the theory behind the act of cooking itself from feminist and territorial perspectives. I recently discovered that cookbooks and cartography have a strong link and could be said to be mutually responsible for colonialism. The taste for cooking spices created conquests and trade routes; colonisation brought exotic recipes from the colonies, and colonial settlements turned land into agricultural produce to feed our growing appetite.

When I take my humble dumpling, I no longer see only sustenance and personal memories of making pelmeni in the privacy of a family home, to the joyful laughter of my family and friends. I now see expanding maps of Imperial Russia, conquerors consuming pelmeni and culture, a recipe carefully preserved and passed on while containing all these complexities and contradictions. From hand to hand, from East to West. 

I am excited to be entering the second year of my course, with the help of the Leverhulme Trust, and to be able to spend time unpacking the artistic methods I use to expand my research.

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