Breaking bread together

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A new documentary series encourages people from different backgrounds to sit down and share a meal

Indian-origin Nayana and Sri Lankan-origin Dhammika meet for the first time. They’ve both lived in the same area, around Hume, for a long time, but have never met before. As the two get to know each other over a shared meal, they discover that they have much in common, such as their love for dance. They also learn about each other’s cultures.

Nayana and Dhammika’s first meeting is captured on camera for a new documentary entitled Field of Dreams. It is part of a new project called Meet + Eat, a documentary series featuring six short films produced by the award-winning media arts organisation, CuriousWorks.

Each episode of Meet + Eat tells the story of two families from different communities who come together over a meal and share personal stories, experiences and snippets from their cultural backgrounds, offering a glimpse into their personal lives.

Indeed, food is an extremely powerful medium to celebrate cultural diversity, and to bridge inter-cultural differences.

Directed and produced by Emma Macey-Storch (Creative Producer Victoria, CuriousWorks), this online documentary series captures the heart and soul of multicultural Australia. The films travel beyond the surface and share with us the compelling, enriching and beautiful stories of the common people that you meet every day, in two of the most culturally diverse regions of Australia, Hume in Victoria and South Western Sydney in NSW.

“Using the slogan ‘Visit Another Australia’, we’ve tried to develop long-term relationships with these communities, encouraging them to celebrate their diversity and share it with the wider nation,” Macey-Storch told Indian Link.

Hume was targeted for a particular reason, she revealed.

“Hume is considered one of the most diverse communities of Melbourne, with over 100 different known cultural groups. This made the perfect demographic for our project and provided us with a way to promote the benefits of cultural diversity to a wider audience through sharing their stories.”

Another factor was that the region has been portrayed negatively in the mainstream media for decades, she added. “I really liked the idea of creating good news stories for Hume and showcasing the amazing talent and exceptional lives of these residents.”

From Nayana and Dhammika’s story for instance, viewers take away deep insights into the rich cultural heritage of both India and Sri Lanka. The two young women offer us a glimpse into their memories of their motherland and share with us the significance of food and dance in both these ancient cultures.

Dhammika reminisces about her childhood growing up on a tea plantation in Sri Lanka. She misses her motherland, but today she calls Australia home. Working in the community sector, Dhammika says that she has plenty of opportunities to mingle with people coming from all around the world, but the common binding factor is how each of them has accepted Australia as home and is proud to live in a country which gives so much importance to multiculturalism.

Nayana is the co-founder of the Oorja Foundation, a community driven initiative to address the problems migrants face in this country. The foundation meets fortnightly to encourage members of the Indian community to speak about their experiences, share their stories and also deals with serious community problems like domestic violence.

Nayana finds Australia an extremely friendly society: “You give a smile and you get a smile back,” she says in the film. She adds that working on the documentary has helped her immensely to understand other cultures which make her a better resident of Australia. “There is truly a global community here and it is time that we all came out of our little shells and embraced it.”

It is wonderful to note that the exercise has also helped their families to build a warm and beautiful friendship.

It must have left Emma Macey-Storch with a warm and fuzzy feeling too.

“I really admired how proactive they both are in their community and how they both use dance to bring people together,” she observed. “In many ways I believe our society is becoming more isolated despite people living more and more in the big cities. You don’t see kids out that much and the days of street parties are far and few between. I think Dhammika and Nayana’s drive to reconnect people through their cultural dances is absolutely inspiring!”

The Meet + Eat documentary series attempts and inspires an openness to embrace cultural diversity and encourages people to make friends with somebody new. At a grassroots level, the organisation hopes that this venture will remove the fear in people and encourage them to meet their neighbours with an open mind. The stories come from Indigenous, Dutch, Lebanese, Lao, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Australian, English, Dutch and Sri Lankan Berger communities.

“Sharing stories, sharing food, sharing your interests and sharing your culture is very powerful, and I think as a global community there should be much, much more of it,” Emma concluded.

So what are you waiting for? How well do you really know your neighbour, except for the occasional smile when your paths cross? Why not prepare a meal and invite them over… perhaps it will be the beginning of another beautiful story.

An exhibition of the films is being shown at Craigieburn Gallery, Hume Global Learning Centre, 75-95 Central Park Ave, Craigieburn, until May 3.

Visit http://meeteat.com.au/

To watch Nayana’s and Dhammika’s episode, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7OzEu70esM