Photo by Deshani Berhardt (Wild Hardt).

Leila Ali | Flemington Sisters


“My name is Leila Ali. Somalia is home and I’ve been living in Australia for 25 years. Before coming to live in Melbourne I was in Papua New Guinea for one year. PNG was nice but there was too much fighting. I like the peace here in Australia and it’s fair.

I keep busy with my work in Mum’s Kitchen in Moonee Valley cooking food for people in need and delivering the food to everyone. I have six children and still two are living at home.

The hard lockdown made me feel very scared and I spent a lot of time looking out my window and talking to my friends on the phone. I felt jealous when I looked outside and saw all the police and other people walking around. I felt like why am I stuck here and everyone else is outside.

During the lockdown I didn’t want the food that the government was bringing, my community looked after me and brought the halal foods. But I didn’t need food, I just needed air and to get outside again.

I wanted to be part of Shelter 2 because I like spending time with my friends. I am the only Somali woman in this team and I wanted to share my special dishes from my culture.”

Conversations with Leila Ali

Sound design and editing by POOKIE.

“We, Huida Omer, Leila Ali, Halima Ahmed, Emebet Asfaw, Ruth Eyakem, Samira Musa, Awatif Taha and Sara Zakaria are a group of women from different African backgrounds living in the high rise in Flemington and North Melbourne. Food, culture and friendships are so important to us. These things nourish us, keep us connected and keep us confident and strong in who we are.

We loved being together and sharing our recipes and stories for MAV’s Shelter 2 project in 2021. Each of us chose a favourite recipe that has been passed on down the generations in our families. We cooked, we ate, we talked over a weekend with the MAV creative team and now we would like to share with you.

We’d like you to know that participating in this project was a very new experience for us and speaking to people outside of our community about our lives, was a big step. We were happy to share our stories and recipes but most of us felt shy to have our faces photographed or filmed for the project, except for our sister Ruth Eyakem. Maybe next project we will be more confident to show our faces!

Happy cooking and eating!”

Shelter 2 is proudly supported by VicHealth, Creative Victoria, City of Melbourne and Australia Council for the Arts.

Lead Artist Jamie Lewis
Sound Design + Editing POOKIE.
Photography + Graphic Design Deshani Berhardt
Marketing, Video + Web Production Sneha Varma
Creative Producer Anita Larkin

Image credit: All above photos by Deshani Berhardt (Wild Hardt).