Fakamaloía he polokalama Shepparton Culture Kitchen, he ngaahi faingamalie kuo ne ómai kia te au mo hoku famili óu lava ai ke vahevahe hoku úlungaanga faka-fonua
Born and raised on the island of Tonga, Ane Fotu migrated to Australia in 2013 for the promise of a better way of living and greater opportunities. Initially settling in Kyabram, her family moved to Shepparton which is now home, and a place where friends have become family. Ane learned traditional recipes and styles of cooking from her mother who was a great cook and entertainer. She loves to grill, BBQ and bake with baking being the closest thing to having an underground oven like ‘back home’. With a big family of six children and husband, she is continually learning and cooking new things and since joining the Shepparton Culture Kitchen, she has discovered a taste for Middle Eastern food.
The longer Ane is away from her home country the more she appreciates her culture and feels proud to be a full Tongan. Living in Australia she has been able to give her children a better life but also tries to teach them their Island culture by involving them in cooking and eating traditional foods. Tongans are known for their love of enormous feasts which play a central role in their culture. Food brings them together as a family, a community. It represents prosperity, generosity and community support.
“Storytelling is done in two different ways in my culture – dancing and music. Since joining Shepparton Culture Kitchen I have realised that storytelling can happen in so many other ways and when I think about what we have learned and shared in the project, my mind goes back to how I grew up in Tonga and how food was a very important part of my upbringing. When I tell people that I was born and raised in Tonga they don’t believe me because they say I look like was born and raised in Australia. It is true that when we first came to Australia I didn’t want to be around Pacific Islanders because I grew up on the island my whole life. But I realise now our people are unique I am proud of who I am, I am proud to be Tongan, to be Pacific Islander. Now I feel like I have something to give and share. I guess that’s what drove me to be part of this project – also the fact that I love food and I can’t wait to be able to share that with everyone.”
Produced by MAV, Greater Shepparton City Council and Point of Difference Studio, the Shepparton Culture Kitchen project is one of 5 initiatives supported through VicHealth’s Art of Good Health program. Drawing on Shepparton’s identity as Victoria’s ‘food bowl’ and its most culturally diverse regional town, Shepparton Culture Kitchen is a significant arts initiative centreing the voices of local women of colour, to build a future in which we are connected through empowering, healthy and sustainable food cultures.
Founder, Malieta Gifts
Malieta Gifts was established in 2021 by aspiring entrepreneur and online gifting enthusiast, Shepparton-based Ane Fotu. Having purchased online gift boxes for friends and family during the COVID-19 lockdowns, Ane noticed a gap in the market for Pacific Island products and set up her business to share her Tongan culture with a broader audience. Together with one or two locally made items, Ane’s gift packs include products made in the Pacific Islands along with explanations of their provenance.