As much as I love moving, I love staying, and I recognise how fortunate I am to transition between both with ease. During lengthy periods of travel, I have moved, relatively smoothly, across borders, without having to validate my reasons for coming and going. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for most of the world’s population. Free movement should be a birthright for all, however it is in the very country in which we, or our parents are born that can determine our institutional identity. This identity determines how far, and where we can go, and if we can leave at all. Often non-consensual, and forcibly enacted at borders enduring solely to include and exclude, such identities can decide our fate, our destiny.
I developed Community Kouzina, to explore food and cuisine as a portable means of identity, one that transcends borders through the movement of people, their imagination, their histories; that powerfully proud and sensory act of cooking and eating. A homage to those recipes that accompany us on the most dangerous and important of journeys, only to survive and manifest in a new home, a new beginning. The kitchen, a space of intimate and collective nurturing was a natural setting to share such knowledge.
This year, I am so humbled to collaborate with Settlement Services International, to be able to honour the magnitude of such journeys of people who have sought refuge and asylum in Australia, by sharing their recipes and stories. This week we will start a countdown by sharing a recipe contributed by participants of asylum seeker or refugee background each week until the SSI New Beginnings: Refugee Arts & Culture Festival during Refugee Week in June.
Accompanying this post is an image of Mazen, a beautiful man who I was lucky enough to meet during my travels in Cyprus in 2015. Mazen left Syria aboard a small boat bound for Italy in 2014. One of 354 on the boat, the vessel ran into trouble and all passengers were rescued off the coast of Cyprus and brought to the island. Mazen sought asylum and now lives in Cyprus. A proactive, fast learner, Mazen dedicates his time to helping other asylum seekers and refugees on the island. Mazen’s latest project is a video he produced educating school children on the experience of asylum seekers and sharing his personal story. A cafe manager in Syria, Mazen’s future plans include a social enterprise that marry his love of cooking with helping others.