Shore: By wāni Le Frère
The celebration of sharing the form of a feast during SHORE was an experience I won’t quickly forget. It began with a speech from Emily Johnson who thanked everyone who had been a part of the making of the project and from the names alone you could tell this had been a project that was thoroughly worked on for a long time before it had been presented. The space in which this feast took place was the meat market in Melbourne. As you walked in you were greeted by an array of warm faces and folk sitting around caught in chatter as you were overcome by a scent of some of the most beautiful aromas. As you went further in you could see the different assortments of dishes and happy eaters all around as well as options to add your own menu to the pallet all over the walls around you.
This was the last part in a series of events that had preceded the feast including a performance that began at Royal Park and ended at the Arts House also in North Melbourne. A few days earlier we were guided on a walk that began with a torch, a gathering and a collection of stories about the meeting place we had landed on before heading off in silence to the performance space. The walk was filled with stops from singing to listening to beautiful tunes that had been placed in various points of the walk. One of the images that struck me most came before the walk began when we found ourselves in the middle of a human circle that moved around this tree as they varied between flowing in, around, out and back of us. The feeling itself I’m still yet to find words for.
During the feast there was an atmosphere of homeliness that filled the space. Yet amongst all the interactions you could feel the rich tradition of history, the storytelling, care and profound depth of the cultures that had gathered in that space. These stories however weren’t told in the forms of words instead they could be found on display to be both respected, appreciated and even consumed. From the wallaby sausages that reminded you of the place you resided, to the assortments of vegetables and meats that told tales of places you’d long yearned to witness but didn’t yet know to the warmth of a ‘Hangi’ that was reminiscent of my childhood in Aotearoa. You could feel the love that went into the making of this feast were it was beyond just a collaboration of individuals who had chosen to gather to make this day a possibility, but more of a marriage of traditions, values and cultures intertwining while maintaining that made this meal a possibility. There truly was an air of effortlessness in the way we all interacted and at times you would almost forget this was a created curated space because it felt so warm. The diversity wasn’t just evident in the types of food, there was unique sense of fluidity in the ease in which you watched the different bodies that occupied that space move within and between each other from the folk that had come as participants to the ones responsible for the creation of the feast who ranged from a wide variety of indigenous custodians both of this land, Canada, Aotearoa and beyond. They engaged each other in ways only found in pockets often not visible to those on the outside of the make up of those groups, you never felt too foreign to engage, ask, enquire or even just share a meal and there was always room to step out and just take time for yourself if you felt you needed it. This feast reflected a type of model that should be mandatory in practices that hope to engage the community. It didn’t feel too hierarchal in its conception, you felt the presence of a diversity of minds and cultures, it encouraged you to share what it is you were able to present without feeling belittled it moved away from colonial ways of meeting where we managed to gather outside in a yard and consumed in the most conscious way that space allowed making sure no scraps were left to waste because it had all been thought through thoroughly and the female presence in the leadership of that space especially in terms of the visible women of color made feel safe enough to want to engage and continue to engage. It was such a privilege to be able to engage in this way and for a few hours witness a third space that could be made possible when thinking of alternate ways of being and I’m truly grateful I was granted the opportunity to be a part of such a project as both an indigenous person to my own colonized land and a colonizing body on stolen land unlearning ways in which I can lessen the burden on it’s first peoples.