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Kawakanih Yawalapiti, 9, Upper Xingu region of Mato Grosso, Brazil, photographed August 19, 2018 in Brasilia. Kawakanih, whose last name comes from her tribe, the Yawalapiti, lives in Xingu National Park, a preserve in the Amazonian Basin of Brazil that can be seen from space. The park is encircled by cattle ranches and soybean crops. In the past six months alone, nearly 100 million trees have been destroyed by illegal logging and expanding agrobusiness. The Yawalapiti and other Xingu tribes collect seeds to preserve species unique to their ecosystem, which lies between the rain forest and savannah. The Yawalapiti’s language is threatened, too. When Kawakanih was born, only seven speakers of Arawaki remained. Determined to keep the language from going extinct, Kawakanih’s mother, Watatakalu, isolated her daughter from those who didn’t speak Arawaki. Kawakanih is the first child to be raised speaking Arawaki since the 1940’s and her mother says it’s up to her children now to keep the language alive. Kawakanih has also learned her father’s dialect as well as Portuguese. She loves to read history books, especially ones about the Egyptians. Her days are spent playing in the river, fishing, helping with chores, harvesting manioc, making beiju (cassava flatbread) and beading necklaces worn during tribal rituals. Every couple months, Kawakanih travels to Canarana for school where she learns computer skills, though no one in her village owns a computer; there is no electricity or running water. To get to the studio in Brasilia, Kawakanih and her mother traveled 31 hours from their village by boat, bus and car. Kawakanih’s body paint protects her from bad spirits and energy. Black paint is made from jenipapo fruit and red is made from ground urucum seeds (a pod of seeds lies to the left of her head). Rainforest tribes have used the entire Urucum plant as medicine for centuries. Kawakanih’s diet is very simple, consisting mainly of fish, cassava, porridge, fruit and nuts. “It takes five minutes to catch dinner,” says Kawakanih. “When you’re hungry, you just go to the river with your net.”
Meissa Ndiaye, 11, Dakar, Senegal, photographed August 30, 2017 (African boy in blue dress). Meissa shares a single room with his dad, mum and brother in the heart of Parcelles Assainies, which means “sanitized plots.” A treeless, sandy suburb of Dakar, Parcelles Assainies was developed in the 1970’s to house the poor overflowing from the city. Meissa lives opposite the futbol stadium and open-air market, hundreds of stalls selling everything from fresh fish to wedding dresses. In late August, tethered goats line the streets before Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice. Meissa, a devout Muslim and student at Quran School, loves goat meat and sweet foods like porridge, though in the week he kept a diary of his meals, he ate very little meat. More often, he filled up on French bread stuffed with spaghetti, peas or fried potatoes. Meissa’s mum and anties prepare his meals though once or twice a week they get take out. Meissa loves futbol most of all and hopes to be a star player like Messi or Ronaldo. If he had enough money, he’d buy a nice little sports car. He wishes his mum and dad, a refrigerator technician, could immigrate to France so that they can earn enough money.
Rosalie Durand, 10, Nice, France, photographed August 18, 2017 (girl in kickboxing outfit). Since her parents split up, Rosalie has lived part time with her mom, and part time with her dad, which allows her to see both the Mediterranean Sea and the French Alps from home. She has a healthy diet (which includes lots of fresh fish, like sardines) thanks in part to her father, a restaurateur, who has taught her to make crepes, salads and lentils with sausage, her favorite dish. The only foods she won’t eat are ratatouille, spinach and cucumber. Rosalie gets her sense of style from her mother, a fashion designer, and plans to be an interior designer. Rosalie is into Thai kickboxing, rock climbing, gymnastics and performs magic tricks. She’s a fan of actors Cole Sprouse and Emma Watson and in her free time goes to the cinema. She notices she’s getting older because she has a phone. There’s nothing missing in Rosalie’s life, though she’d like to go to Los Angeles and explore Hollywood Boulevard. If she had enough money, she’d buy a sailboat or maybe even a yacht.

It’s been said, “You are what you eat” though few may remember what they had for lunch last Tuesday. Our diets, like our identities, may be formed by nature and nurture but one thing is clear: habit is what creates our sense of reality.

In our present day and age, one force has risen above all: the corporate drive to erase indigenous traditions and practices, replacing them with an artificial version that exacts the highest profit margin. Under the banner of globalization, neoliberal capitalist practices push us towards the brink of crisis at every turn.

It’s easy to see the correlation between diet and health in so-called “first world” economies like the United States where chronic disease is affecting vast swatch of the population at younger and younger ages every year as the public is steadily fed a diet of misinformation packaged in marketing-speak and backed by scientific “claims.”

In the new book, Daily Bread: What Kids Eat Around the World, American photographer Gregg Segal has created a snapshot of the relationship between diet, culture, and location in a series of stunning portraits wherein the children are photographed surrounded by one-weeks forth of food.

If you’ve ever kept a food diary, you know how easy it is to be shocked, not only by how much you may consume, but by what and when you eat. It’s easy to forget about a late night snack until you see a different one written down every night of the week, or start to notice how few fruits and vegetables you may actually consume, until you spell it out in ink. Now imagine if you assembled every single item on that list into a glorious still life — what emotions would that make you feel?

Segal notes that in 2015, Cambridge University conducted an exhaustive study ranking diets around the world from most to least nutritional. Unsurprisingly 9 of 10 of the healthiest countries are in Africa, a testament to the ability of the cradle of humanity to endure against centuries of imperialism. Segal surmises this is because they are poor so the multinational food corporations have not decided to infiltrate them on the consumer side.

Segal’s portraits are deeply revealing meditations of the relationship between environment, culture and identity, and the way it is formed and forged in the developmental years of childhood. Photographed from above the images are both portraits and inforgraphics about not only the children’s culture but their families as well. Through what they consume and its frequency, we are given a snapshot not only into family mealtimes and what adults consider acceptable for a growing child.

Within the luxurious still life, each child poses knowingly, perhaps a bit precocious in the age of overexposure, but with a clear sense of self and identity. Brief profiles accompany each portrait, giving us a snapshot of who and how old there are, where they are from, what they enjoy doing, and the role food plays in their lives.

The glorious spectrum of humanity in these photographs is beautifully expressed in both the specificity of each portrait and the universal nature of childhood. The whole world lies before them, the building blocks essential to their quality of life. Few may ever know the world that Kawakinah Yawalapiti, 9, enjoys as a member of the Yawalapiti people of the Amazonian Basin of Brazil. “It takes five minutes to catch dinner,” she says. “When you are hungry, you just got to the river with your net.”

Anchal Sahani, Chembur, Mumbai, India (10 yrs old) photographed March 11, 2017 (girl wearing pink dress) Anchal lives in a tiny tin shack on a construction site in a suburb of Mumbai with her parents and two siblings. Her father makes less than $5 a day, just enough for her mother to prepare okra & cauliflower curry, lentils and roti from scratch. Anchal would like to return to the farm where she was born in Bihar, go to school like other kids and eventually become a teacher, but she’s kept busy with household chores and looking after her baby brother. When she has time, she dresses up and leaves the construction site to enjoy the fragrance of jasmine and lotus and to watch the neighborhood kids playing cricket and running free. While on her walks, Anchal collects brightly colored chocolate wrappers she finds along the road by the grocery store. Anchal wishes her mother would love her the way she loves her baby brother.
Beryl Oh Jynn, 8, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, photographed March 25, 2017 (Chinese girl in school uniform). Beryl lives in a quiet condominium with her parents and two brothers. She goes to S. J. K. Han Ming Puchong, a national Chinese school walking distance from home. Beryl’s dad is an engineer and her mother runs a day care. Beryl’s earliest memory of food is porridge and cake. Her favorite dish is spaghetti with carbonara sauce. Beryl grows bok choy and spinach in her balcony garden, is not permitted to drink sodas and refuses to eat ginger. She would like to be a cheerleader.
Greta Moeller, Hamburg, Germany, 7, photographed August 11, 2017 (girl wearing red headphones) Greta lives with her mother and younger sister in Hamburg, but spends quite a bit of time with her grandparents, too. On the path to her grandparents home is a great big chestnut tree and in autumn, Greta searches in the foliage for chestnuts with her little sister. Greta’s favorite food is fish sticks with mashed potatoes and applesauce. She can’t stand rice pudding. One thing Greta is really good at is snapping her fingers, both hands at the same time. At night, while falling asleep, Greta thinks mostly about her mother, who is usually in the next room watching TV.
Altaf Rabbal DLove Bin Roni, 6, Gombak, Malaysia, photographed March 26, 2017 (boy in striped blue shirt holding his chin). Altaf and his family live in Kampung Kerdas, a small village of about 30 families on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. There are many children Altaf’s age. They chase each other around the neighborhood almost every evening and pick fruit from the trees: mango, rambutan and mangosteen. If it’s raining, they’ll play marbles. Often, Altaf visits his grandparents who live five minutes away. Altaf’s father makes and sells satay sticks at his own stand and runs delivery for a Malaysian on-line platform part-time while his mom takes care of the house and kids; she’s expecting her 4 th soon. Altaf’s favorite food is his father’s chicken and beef satay. It’s seasoned with ginger and herbs, roasted over a charcoal fire and served with sliced, cold cucumber. Altaf dips his satays in a tangy sauce made with roasted ground peanuts, chili paste, garlic and lemongrass. Altaf will eat any “tasteful” food (made with a lot of ingredients and flavors) and likes raw, leafy greens like Ulam-Ulam, a salad eaten with anchovies, cincalok (a condiment made from fermented krill) and sambal (hot sauce). The only foods Altaf avoids are pickles and other sour things. Altaf collects parcel stickers, big, colorful ones, and likes to discover new things. He loves science because to him it is magic. When he grows up, he wants to be a pilot. He loves to fly like birds while watching the skies and clouds. As he falls asleep, Altaf thinks of what he’ll do tomorrow: catch fish, climb a tall fruit tree, or cycle far from his village.

All images: © Gregg Segal

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