RESEARCHER and contemporary artist Terri Lethlean and visual and graphic artist Janet Ambrose are educating people about the Australian South Sea Islander culture in a unique way.
"We went to school throughout the '70-80s and in our curriculum there was made no mention of the Australian South Sea Islander distinct cultural identity,” Ms Lethlean said.
"It is only now that we are learning more of their history and that is an important noticing.”
The duo is using food culture in an upcoming exhibit as a way to talk about the history of the Australian South Sea Islanders in Mackay.
It will be titled Kitchen and Kin: Recipe Stories from Australian South Sea Islanders.
They described Kitchen and Kin as a visual art exhibition that weaves spatial, historical and cultural connections between people, place and time through food culture.
The stories will be told via mixed media, layered texts and imagery to commemorate familial food narratives.
The artists said the exhibition paid homage to the distinct cultural identity of Australian South Sea Islanders through the stories about food recipes, all the while recognising the significant values embedded within the gesture of cooking.
"An exhibition of this kind provides opportunity for the broader community to engage with local history through a familiar everyday narrative, such as cooking, but in a different way, through the stories of recipes,” Ms Lethlean said.
"We would like visitors to recognise the high cultural values of their everyday cooking practices and hope they find the value that lays within the gesture of growing, sourcing and cooking foods for others.
"It is quite often that we overlook the significant values that come from mundane and repetitive everyday cooking.”
Ms Lethlean said what caught her attention during her research was learning some of the ways in which Australian South Sea Islander ancestors lived across the region.
"Their foods, their faith and their family are of utmost importance in their culture and through the conversations and research undertaken, we have been provided with an insight into times where creating a sense of belonging meant forgetting about the past,” she said.
"These culturally sensitive stories being drawn on deal with very contemporary, largely unfamiliar challenges to ethics, practices and values.”
The project will be held in conjunction with Mackay region's 150th anniversary commemorations that mark the first South Sea Islanders' arrival to work in Australia's primary industries, namely sugar cane.
These South Sea Islander stories will be exhibited at the Australian South Sea Island Family Day on August 26 at the Lagoons Hut, Ram Chandra Pl, and later at Gordon White Library in September.