O le fa’atauaina o a tatou taumafa mai le tape naina ma lona kuka ina aemaise lava i lona tofoina.
Le’aisa immigrated to Australia in 2004, seeking better opportunities for her family and young children. On visiting Shepparton one Easter, Le’aisa was drawn to the calming presence of Victoria Lake and soon settled in the area. The water in the manmade lake reminded Le’aisa of her childhood home on the island of Samoa, where she lived right on the edges of the ocean with her family. It is where she learned to fish with her parents, eating seafood direct from the sea as well as fruit and leaves from the trees around them. Family occasions provided Le’aisa with the opportunity to observe how to prepare traditional Samoan food for big feasts.
The practice of using existing ingredients around her continues to influence Le’aisa in her cooking today. She enjoys improvising with traditional ingredients, combining them with what she can find in her kitchen to create her own version of traditional dishes. In this way she hopes her children can appreciate the flavours from her own children that she so fondly remembers.
Despite the many challenges of accessing the ingredients and resources she requires to prepare traditional Samoan foods, Le’aisa strongly believes in and strives for fresh food, simply prepared, eaten with family. For Le’aisa, food is not only a way to feed and nourish those you love but also to connect with, learn from and care for each other. It is a vital part of a healthy, happy life. She hopes her children will carry her traditional Samoan culture and values with them, giving them a strong sense of self and belonging.
“Food means a great deal in our family and plays a very important part in our culture and community. In Samoa, no one eats alone. We do not cook small meals, we cook for everyone and we all eat together. Young and old, No get-together is complete without food. I hope being a part of this project helps young people stay close with their cultural traditions. We Islanders have heathy traditional foods. When I was young, there was no such thing as fast food. Fast food was a piece of fruit or something you find on the floor, like a seashell or something. I think, if we followed our ancestors ate more like them, not so much processed foods, a lot of the diseases and illnesses we face today can be avoided.”
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.