By Tina Gingell, PhD Student, Connecting with Cultural Foods
In May 2021, I went along to The Islamic Women’s Association of Australia (IWAA) Community Iftar dinner, as part of the Connecting with Cultural Foods project. The Settlement Engagement and Transition Support (SETS) team did an amazing job organising a fabulous night of culture, singing, music, and colour.
Iftar is the meal eaten after sunset during the month of Ramadan, the Islamic Holy Month. People of Muslim faith observe Ramadan through prayer and fasting. Fasting means many people do not eat during daylight hours, and Iftar is spent breaking this fast with family and friends.
On the night, I heard about how Ramadan is celebrated around the world, including stories from Afghanistan, Bosnia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Indonesia, and Sudan.
I learnt that even though Ramadan is a period of fasting, food is central to Ramadan. Each country serves up its own important cultural meals during Iftar. These are eaten with families and friends, and sometimes spill into the street with whole community coming together to eat and celebrate.
I also discovered that Music is important during Ramadan. In many countries, drums are beaten and songs are sung in the streets at 3am to wake everyone for an early meal. I got to listen to this wakeup call, and some amazing singing and music. The children from AIIC Nasheed impressed me by singing I Am Australian, with verses in 3 different languages. Indonesia Angklung Brisbane did an unforgettable performance of Somewhere Over the Rainbow using Angklungs, an Indonesian bamboo musical instrument.
Attending the Iftar dinner helped me understand food is essential for religious, spiritual and cultural health. When cultural foods are not available or accessible, people are unable fully embrace their cultural celebrations. On the other hand, when culture foods are eaten, it connects people spiritually and socially to create new and strong bonds of family, friendship and community. The music performances which featured an Australian theme showed how culture can connect people and places to create a space of diversity and belonging.
The Connecting with Cultural Foods project works with community members that understand the significance of finding and accessing cultural foods. We want to highlight how people access their cultural foods in South East Queensland. We plan to ask community members to help design tools that connect people with their cultural foods. We hope this will help communities to immerse themselves in their culture and feel like Australia is their home.
The night was also an opportunity to celebrate multiculturalism in Australia and connect with other organisations. IWAA made special mention of Connecting with Cultural Foods, showing their ongoing support for the project. I am excited about this relationship and eager to learn more about cultures around the world.