In residence / leaving things behind

Some months ago, an Uber driver told me about the greenhouse he was building in his backyard so he could grow bananas here in Melbourne. It wasn’t the bananas he was after, no, not exactly. It was the banana leaves.

Having moved here from Chennai with his wife, they have a young child. He works full time, and drives in the evenings and weekends for about half the week. And he is an avid gardener.

I imagine he grew to become an avid gardener out of necessity. He couldn’t get the fresh produce he wanted to make the food that he craved. Not throughout the year at least, and not always at the right price. So he looked to growing them himself.

He’s not the first. The different waves of migration brought with them different produce that is common in Australia today. And while I don’t think he is the last, I wonder if the effort he is putting in to building the greenhouse in order to grow what he needs is something we might see less and less of, since we can readily access imported produce these days.

There is a kind of beauty when I think of international trade. Marco Polo walked along the silk route and brought the concept of noodles from China to Pasta in Italy. Or so the story goes. I am Singaporean Eurasian – with Dutch, Portuguese, English, Sri Lankan, Chinese (as far as I know) heritage. (We can discuss the problems of colonisation another day, but…)

And yet, in the knowledge of Climate Change and the amount of carbon emissions that result from the logistics in trading, as well as in industrial agriculture, I’m not sure if I can continue to take for granted the accessibility of the block of belacan (shrimp paste) that I can get from the Asian grocer.

Or how do I re-create my Cantonese grandmother’s tonic soups made with pork ribs and pig liver when I have chosen to not eat/eat less* pork, and most industrial-farmed meats?

I think there is some kind of a spectrum; we knowingly and unknowingly make decisions based on a combination of familiarity, ethics, values, practicality, etc. And I suspect it is in the stories in between that will inform our future decisions.

This week, I start work in residence with A is for Atlas & Creative Spaces at Carlton Connect Lab 14. And these stories are what I am searching for: yours and mine.

Come join me for a cuppa and a chat.

Duration: approx 30min
Dates: 28 Jan – 13 Feb; Thursdays to Saturdays
Times: Thur & Fri, 1230 – 2030 (last appointment 8pm); Sat 1230 – 1630 (last appointment 4pm)
Location: Street front studio, LAB-14, 700 Swanston Street, Carlton 3053
Bookings: lewis.jme@gmail.com

Walk-ins welcome, but bookings preferred!

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