“Bring Romie 18 to the East” is an exhibition proposed by Adelaide Lala Tam after her project “Romie 18” (2018).
Behind its unique identifier – a short name appended to a serial number – hides one of the countless cows populating the Dutch cattle industry “adopted” by Adelaide. For this retrospective, the designer who, in turn, becomes the animal’s caregiver, traces back Romie 18’s story through a display of evidence.
Romie 18, an 11-year-old Meuse-Rhine-Yssel (1) from Eindhoven (North Brabant, Netherlands), became the motive of her inquiry and, nonetheless, an endearing companion. Indeed, as she learned to care for the animal at the farm, Adelaide grew much more attached to it than she thought she would. Amid the mechanics of the scheduled pregnancies, distribution of measured amounts of supplements, medication or food, and daily milking, the designer could identify her project’s urgency: transparency. This transparency was not only translated via the informative data revealed by Adelaide but also through the sensibility of the story she decided to tell. Along the way, Adelaide found gentle means to trigger her audience’s empathy, inviting them to reflect on the question of respect regarding animal breeding.
Romie 18’s milk and meat were used, as traditionally, in the making of cheese and sausages. Adelaide also explored the process of soap-making and leather tanning by repurposing the cow’s fat and coat. Together with each of Romie 18’s goods, Adelaide distributed a didactic leaflet to extensively inform the customer about the origin of these products and the story behind the project.
Nearly a decade later, Adelaide concludes this journey by returning to Hong Kong, solemnly carrying Romie 18’s ashes with her. As a final tribute to the animal, she has planned to design a series of ceramic incense holders. The manufacturing of this item will be the outcome of a collaboration with her fellow Design Academy Eindhoven alumni Niko Leung, a Hong Kong-based ceramic artist whose work emphasises the use of recycled materials. Together, they will turn the precious ashes into bone china, a ceramic made of bone ash and other components. Following its production, the object will be available to the audience and continue carrying Adelaide and Romie 18’s story.
(1) The Meuse-Rhine-Yssel is a Dutch breed of dual-purpose cattle, reared for meat and milk.
Based in Rotterdam, Adelaide Lala Tam graduated Cum Laude from the Food Non-Food department of the Design Academy Eindhoven in The Netherlands in 2018.
Adelaide seeks to explore complexities within the food production system to uncover untold stories behind the process. Curious about the role of a designer as a mediator between food and design, her work begins with thorough field research at the sources where food are grown, raised and produced. Taking into account the social context at the initial stages of a design project, she then applies her design acumen to reconnect people to the origin of their food.
Adelaide hails from Hong Kong and her creative journey in food has been recognised and included in 50 NEXT, an initiative from the platform behind The World’s 50 Best Restaurants and Bars that celebrates young people aged 35 and under across the gastronomy sector. In 2021, she was also nominated as Women 100 by BBC.