Visual identity by Karena Bravo

Shepparton Culture Kitchen

From 31 Aug 2020

“A healthy food culture includes a large mix of different cultures and traditions…and foods that are created with love and shared with others” – Agoness Kuol

Shepparton is the ‘food bowl’ of Victoria and a key food producer, yet paradoxically, faces high levels of food insecurity. Shepparton is also home to large culturally diverse communities, who although proud and strong, are disproportionately affected by structural issues creating health inequity.

Building on many years of work in the Shepparton region, MAV has joined forces with Greater Shepparton City Council and POD Studio to develop Shepparton Culture Kitchen, a significant arts initiative centreing the diverse voices of local diaspora communities, to build a future in which our communities are connected through empowering, healthy and sustainable food cultures.

Starting with a seed project in 2020, Shepparton Culture Kitchen has engaged an intergenerational, intercultural group of 8 local diverse women including Ane FotuRee PericLeaisa PeleEman AlabbassiAgoness KuolShakilla Naveed and Yusniza Yusoff.  As experts in their own lived experiences, the women have been exploring ways that they can respond creatively to issues of food insecurity through building and diversifying local knowledge around food cultures and healthy eating.

L-R: Ane Fotu, Yusniza Yusoff, Agoness Kuol, Ree Peric, Eman Alabassi, Leaisa Pele, Ivete Muhimpundu and Shakilla Naveed. Photography by Mellisa Silaga.

Drawing on their own stories, cultures and hereditary knowledges, the women are collaborating with professional artist Jamie Lewis to create a program of interactive food-sourcing, cooking, and eating experiences and public events for presentation in 2022.

Jamie who has worked with MAV to plant the seeds of Shepparton Culture Kitchen since 2020, says that while they have yet to cook together as a group, she has been welcomed into each of their kitchens through their stories.

“Despite successive lockdowns and disruptions to our collective creative process, everyone has persisted ever so generously. Here we are now as Victoria opens up, ready to reconvene in person to share food together, and move into the next phase of realising the creative ideas we have generated so far.” Jamie says.

The women have also been working with local visual artist Mimi Leung to bring their stories to life through a series of digital stories and a Shepparton Culture Kitchen graphic cookbook. Mimi has learned so much through the many insightful conversations she has had with the women about the role that food plays in all aspects of health, including mental, emotional, familial and community.

“I hope the digital stories and cookbook we create together will capture our ideas and raise challenging questions for our community to become more mindful of their own attitudes about different foods and, by extension, cultures.”  Mimi says.

The Shepparton Culture Kitchen project is one of 5 initiatives supported through VicHealth’s Art of Good Health program. The Art of Good Health program is designed to support partnerships that can develop creative solutions to stubborn health and wellbeing challenges and recognises that artists and cultural practitioners are an untapped resource in the fight for health equity.

The program has also received funding from Australia Council for the Arts to continue in 2023.

MAV is proud to partner with Greater Shepparton City Council and POD Studio to elevate the voices of local, culturally diverse artists and community and to be a conduit for community self-determination.