Chantey Dayal: Shinkurt

Love, memory & onions | October 12 -November 3

“The feeling of having somehow arrived ‘home’ for me was immediate from the very first moment that I arrived in Ethiopia 5 years ago. I have returned every year since, seeking out the smell of the place. Ethiopia is a place that has continued to open my heart, a place that has drawn me in and brought me to my knees. I feel a longing for the women there whose work seems eternal and is life giving. 

“Last year, I spent the better part of three weeks peeling onions at an orphanage in Addis Ababa. Shinkurt, which means onion in Amharic, is the foundation of so much Ethiopian cuisine. The onions were a part of the endless and ongoing cycle of nourishment for the children in their care. I sat, listened, and watched the women who ran the kitchen, nannied, and cleaned after the children. Most of the time, I had absolutely no idea what they were talking about, but somehow through the simple act of peeling onions, we could translate our smiles, our laughter and our sorrows. The work was repetitive, and in it’s way, fulfilling. The space was so meagre and yet so thoroughly enough. 

“From that experience has come this recent expression of shapes and colour. Painting in layers is the opposite of peeling back the onion skins. What is revealed comes from adding rather than taking away. Much is revealed through the addition of layer upon layer of colours, choices, preferences, layers are added in order to change, hide, and redirect the outcome. The figures in the paintings are observers, of light, of earth, of each others hearts.” 

The Ou Gallery met Chantey shortly after they opened last year, and immediately made time to visit her in studio. The warmth not only of the homemade chai, but of Chantey’s spirit permeates her studio and her work. Love for her subjects, for her journey, and for the teachings of those experiences play out on the canvas in a palpable, moving, and thoughtful way.