A sharing of culture, food and art that supports refugees and asylum seekers, including those in detention, is at the heart of the Food for Thought project.
Ravi, author of From Hell to Hell, a collection of poems and drawings from his time in Nauru detention centre, or “human dumping ground” as he calls it, first started thinking about Food for Thought the day he got out of detention.
Ravi told Green Left Weekly: “The first day I got out of the detention centre, I went to Perth where they were celebrating the First Home Project, where people bring different food and share it. I thought we can start something different.”
With the help of Centre for Stories and members of the Refugee Rights Action Network WA, Food for Thought was launched in Perth in April last year. It is growing in popularity.
Food for Thought includes a range of artwork, poetry readings, short films and Afghan, Pakistani, Iranian and Tamil feasts. All the money raised goes towards buying gifts and phone credit for people in detention.
Ravi said it is popular with refugees in the community as “a good platform for them to perform their skills in reading and writing (often poetry), photography and cooking”.
He said the events “bring people together and they can gain understanding about asylum seekers.
“In these three hours people can learn lots of things — it’s a different culture, different people and different traditional food, religion, language and experience.
“It’s touched a few people’s hearts and minds. They’ve got a chance to open their eyes and see what’s going on around asylum seekers. It’s a real turning point.”
The Sydney events have included screenings of the Dark Way films, created by asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru. The films show the harrowing conditions in Nauru Detention Centre, share the stories of asylum seekers trapped there and the heroic 240 day protest. Ravi also screens a couple of other short films where he shares his story.
Ravi is working on another project called Hidden Voices from Human Dumping Ground, where he collects and shares poetry from people in detention centres, especially Nauru and Manus Island.
At the end of every Food for Thought event, after hearing stories from asylum seekers, a photo is taken of attendees holding letters forming “WE HEAR YOU”. Ravi said it’s a way of showing “people can hear the people in detention centre, their voices”, especially as “the people in the detention centre can’t speak out”.
Ravi then shares these photos with his friends in detention. “It’s a good thing when I share those photos. It’s giving people hope.”
More information about food for thought is here.