This week we wanted to amplify the voice of someone doing some concrete good in the world. We turned to our friend, the London-based cultural changemaker, Heta Fell, to speak to her about her work and—as this series would dictate—her most treasured belonging. Most recently, Heta organized 'New World New Rules,' a fundraising initiative to benefit Plan International's Coronavirus Appeal, which supports at-risk children, especially girls, around the world. 'New World, New Rules' runs through June 14—check it out, buy an artist print, and support this urgent cause.
Permanent Collection: Heta, tell us what one thing in your possession you most identify with your personal 'Permanent Collection.'
Heta Fell: The piece I've chosen is a quilt that I made with my dear friend Katrina.
P.C.: Tell us more. Why did you select this quilt?
H.F.: It represents such a special and transitional time for me, in my last few weeks in the Bay Area before we moved home to London. We bought the fabric for the quilt together with our great friend Mel at the Alameda Flea market, and we spent days working together on it in Katrina’s Dogpatch studio. We had endless conversations reflecting on motherhood, social and racial justice, and friendship. The day we finished the quilt was the same day Kat first felt confident enough to call herself an artist—which she absolutely 100% is. Sometimes it takes real friends to see you at your core, understand your light, and give you the courage to bask in it. We made the quilt at the end of our time living in the Bay Area and it represents the sisterhood I had with Katrina and Mel. I love that my baby Gray now sleeps in it and is enveloped in that strong female love.
P.C.: That's so beautiful... Do you have a favorite gift you've received?
H.F.: My children!
P.C. Awwww, you guys are the sweetest family! Alright, spill the beans, what’s your trustiest flea market or vintage shop?
H.F.: In the Bay Area, we used to go to Alameda Flea for homeware, textiles and furniture every month. Kat has a big Dodge truck, so Mel and I used to pile in at 5.30am when it was still dark outside and get there early for the real treasure. I loved the excitement of driving over the Bay bridge while the sun was coming up with my girls—escaping for a bit. In London, I love wandering around Alfie’s antique market, off the Edgware Road. It’s surprisingly been one of those places that has stayed a great secret. I haven’t yet made it to some of the bigger antiques fairs in London—I’ve heard Kempton and Ardingly are good. My favorite places to pick things up are the little shops I find on holidays especially when we visit India and Kenya (where my family is from).
P.C: What’s your favorite museum or gallery?
H.F.: That’s so difficult! I love the Underground Museum in LA, Hauser & Wirth in Somerset, Creative Growth in Oakland, Camden Arts Centre (glorious for the grade II listed building alone!!!), Tate Modern in London and I think Rencontre D’Arles is spectacular. It’s a photography festival that takes over the whole town of Arles every July. When there, we start the day with a swim in the modernist public pool and then stroll around the city dropping into exhibitions, interspersed by cold glasses of rose in a totally beautiful setting—my idea of heaven.
P.C.: Do you have a favorite artist? Or, more specifically is there and artist, or several, who you're finding particularly inspiring at the moment?
H.F.: Just a few! Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Alice Neel, Cassi Namoda, Joy Yamusangie, Deana Lawson, Phoebe Boswell, Dayanita Singh, Kerry James Marshall, Faith Ringgold, Phoebe Collings-James, Armina Mussa, Sanlé Sory, Seydou Keïta, Grace Wales Bonner, Stephen Tayo, Vivian Suter, Wangari Mathenge, Shirin Neshat, Sagarika Sundaram, Hilma Af Klimt, Lubaina Himid ,Chris Ofili, Martin Parr, Grayson Perry, Hector Hyppolite, Zarina, Ron Veasey, James Turrell, Viviane Sassen, Harley Weir, Jenn Nkiru ,Arthur Jafa, Kahlil Joseph, Tyeb Mehta, Jogen Chowdhury, S.H. Raza, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Julie Mehretu, Salman Toor, and Henry Taylor!
P.C. Do you have a food or dish that would be the equivalent to your ‘permanent collection’ thing? I.e. what one recipe is in your ‘forever repertoire’?
H.F.: Pav Bhaji is an essential Indian recipe—a spiced mix of mashed vegetables, served with a fried buttered bun. It’s my ultimate comfort dish that my dad has made us forever—tastes like home for me. This dish started out decades ago as a way for market vendors to make something out of their unsold vegetables at the end of the day to reduce waste but has become a staple for Indians everywhere.
P.C.: Describe a project you are working on at the moment, or a current obsession.
H.F.: I am spending all my time thinking about black lives, concentrating on how we can move beyond this news cycle and ensure that people don’t just forget, move on and revert to business as usual. It’s on us non-Black folk to create action, in solidarity with black people, to tackle systemic and structural racism and dismantle white supremacy. What is everyone going to do with their privilege to address this and support black people? It cannot go on—these cannot be tokenistic gestures. I hope everyone is looking in the mirror at the moment, and getting ready to fight the long fight for black people.
From 'New World, New Rules': Cassi Namoda
From 'New World, New Rules': Manuja Waldia
From 'New World, New Rules': Heather Hazzan