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A taste of Africa, a show of unity

Food brings us together. It breaks down barriers, connects people and starts conversations.

Monday July 10, 2017

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You feel like you're valuable, you're valued and you can contribute something.

Food brings us together. It breaks down barriers, connects people and starts conversations. For a group of women in Adelaide, food was a way for them to not only share their cultures, but build their own confidence and sense of belonging.

During Refugee Week the women held a cooking demonstration at Adelaide's bustling Central Markets. All hailing from Africa, they wanted to share their culture and cuisine with the community. They also shared their stories of leaving their home country, often escaping war, and coming to Australia.

Loyi George was a refugee from Congo and now calls Adelaide home. She says the event was invaluable for her and the other women, and brought many of them out from the isolation of their homes.

"These women enjoy cooking. But staying at home not being able to share the knowledge with other people, that's not really helping them," says Loyi.

"When they come together and do something that they're passionate about, knowing that they're contributing to society as well, it brings a sense of empowerment.

"You feel like you're valuable, you're valued and you can contribute something."

The women form the African Women's Network, a membership group of Australian Red Cross. The cooking demonstration was the first activity that they did as Red Cross members and they were thrilled with it.

"I just love seeing when people come together, regardless of their journeys as refugees, and being able to be themselves," adds Loyi.

The proud women were extremely popular at the Markets, drawing a large crowd of onlookers eager to taste their food - which included lentil soup and banana fritters. They were supported by a drummer from Ghana and a dancer from Liberia who transformed the cooking demonstration into a party, with many people getting up and dancing along.

Lawuo Pewee exhibits the ingredients for her dish.

Liberian born Lawuo Pewee agreed that sharing food was a great way to connect with other people.

"Food brings people together and promotes friendship and respect."

"It makes me feel good to know that there is love and unity," she says after experiencing the buzz of the event.

Lawuo has a long history with Red Cross, approaching the organisation in 1996 in Liberia to search for her sister who she'd lost contact with because of war. Thanks to the Red Cross tracing service the sisters were reunited. Today she attends the event as a Red Cross member, happy to be a part of the organisation that once helped her. Lawuo makes a dish of chicken and potato leaves with rice, and is chuffed that people are asking for the recipe.

As for the drumming and dancing, Lawuo said that is part of being African.

"It's fun, we love music and dancing. It brings people together. Dancing is important because it gives you strength, relieves your stress, relaxes the mind and it's healthy for the body."

The women were glowing with pride and happiness at the end of the event, grateful to have been able to share their culture and see so many people enjoy it.

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