Wednesday, January 20, 2021


Reading Time: 3 minutes

Inside a new photographic tribute to Melbourne’s Indian food culture. DHANYA SAMUEL reports

Sonia Sarangi is an architect by profession, but she is also an avid foodie and photographer. Her recently concluded photography exhibition, Desivolution, presented in association with Multicultural Arts Victoria, is a testimony this, capturing the heart and soul of the Indian food culture in Melbourne.
“Restaurants have become powerful billboards for culture and diversity in Melbourne,” Sarangi says. “It is in this space that many of us are willing to share different aspects of desi culture that others are unaware of.”
Sonia Sarangi.Indian Link
She continues, “The exhibition focuses on the design and food of these ‘new wave’ Indian establishments, I hesitate to call them restaurants as many do not fit that description, from food trucks to specialist market stalls; from healthy street food to contemporary fine dining, tucked away in the laneways of Melbourne. Ultimately, I believe that food is a fantastic window into our culture.”
Photography has always been a silent passion for Sonia, but an important one being in the field of design and architecture.
“It began with me ‘borrowing’ my dad’s film camera before I headed to university and then forgetting to ever return it!” Sarangi says. “I don’t have formal training, but I think that being self-taught is a route that many creative people take. It’s taken me quite a long time to find my voice in photography and to find the perfect platform to share it.”
Sonia Sarangi.Indian Link
Michael Silver (who runs Magnet Galleries where the exhibition was held) showed Sonia some beautiful archival papers on which her photographs could be printed. The minute Khadi was mentioned, she knew this would be the most befitting surface for her photographs. The paper comes from a handmade paper mill outside the village of Tarihal near Hubli, in Karnataka. Khadi papers are made from 100 per cent cotton rag, which is known for its exceptional strength and durability, and have longer fibres than linters which are generally used in papermaking.
All of the food outlets involved in the project “instantly grasped the concept and embraced it”. Sarangi is full of praises for the restaurants, cafes and pop-ups who agreed to be a part of the project. “They were generous with their time and let us into their very busy working routines,” she explains. “I would describe this new wave as young, health-focused, experimental and passionate about what they do.”
Featured in Desivolution are Babuji (4-6 Grey St, St Kilda), Delhi Streets (22 Katherine Place), Dilli 6 (290 Old Geelong Rd, Hoppers Crossing), Original Chai Co (Queen St, Opp. Shed H, Queen Vic Market), Overdosa (pop up stalls across Melbourne), Tadka Boom (22 Goldsbrough Lane) and Tonka (20 Duckboard Pl).
Sonia Sarangi.Indian Link
“Even in a city like Melbourne, which marches on its stomach, it is a very competitive and brutal scene within the hospitality industry,” Sarangi says. “They each took a risk in presenting a facet of Indian food or culture that many of the locals do not understand. And in doing so they each inadvertently took on the role of being constant cultural ambassadors.”
A native of Orissa, born and brought up in Dubai, completing her higher studies in Singapore and then moving to Australia in 2006, Sonia calls herself a global citizen. This nomadic journey has also broadened her horizons about what Indian culture really means and how food always plays an intricate part, especially when you live outside India.
Sonia says that the extensive support of Multicultural Arts Victoria and Magnet Galleries has enabled her to bring these stories to life through her photographs that are quite different to what is often seen in mainstream media.
“Instagram, I fear, has desensitised everyone to picture-postcard photos,” Sarangi says. “My advice would be to take your time to discover an authentic story or topic that you are passionate about. Photographs don’t simply capture a moment, they are also a powerful story telling medium. And the best stories are those that come from within.”

- Advertisement -
Previous articleNSW Govt needs an India strategy
Next articleBlessed

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Ep8: Indian links in Indigenous Australian poet Ali Cobby Eckermann’s life

To celebrate NAIDOC week 2020 (between 8-15 November) I spoke to Yakunytjatjara poet Ali Cobby Eckermann about her time in India where she taught...

Ep 7: In the case of Sushant Singh Rajput

  The torrid and high-octane Sushant Singh Rajput case has been fodder for Indian people and press for the last few months. The actor’s tragic...

Ep 6: The Indian LGBTQ+ community in 2020

  It’s been two years since the world’s largest democracy repealed the draconian Section 377 which used to allow discrimination against homosexual people. Only this...

Latest News

Memes to celebrate India’s Test series win

  You've watched the legendary match, now peep these hilarious memes. From Pant to Pujara, SCG to the Gabba, and England to Australia, netizens went...
washington sundar

After dramatic entry into Test cricket, Sundar steals the show

  How quickly fortune changes is evident in the dramatic manner in which Washington Sundar, originally selected only for the T20 series in Australia, was...

WATCH: Day 5 of the Gabba Test in 8 minutes

  Even those only remotely interested in cricket tuned in, and stayed glued to their screens yesterday. Has Test cricket ever been this interesting? From wickets...

Reliving the Gabba Test

  Chasing down a total of 328 at The Gabba, Australia's fortress for the last 33 years, the Indian team defied all odds to win...

A poetic tribute to Team India

  Since invincible Team India played an utterly exhausting four-Test series with the deciding Test at a venue at which Australia had not lost in...