Building bridges through food and culture

December 2021

Building bridges through food and culture

Nagham Al-knani

Imagine fleeing your home for a new and unfamiliar country; holding your two young children close while you struggle to decipher the language, the food, the culture.

Nagham Al-knani has done all that, and more.

“I came from Iraq 13 years ago with my two girls,” she said.

“I lost my husband in the war when I was pregnant with my little one. It was horrific. It was very, very hard.”

The CatholicCare Tasmania bicultural support worker said finding her way in Tasmania had at first been frightening and overwhelming.

“You need to learn everything from zero,” she explained.

“You have never lived in that country, never spoken their language, never done any of the traditional things. You haven’t eaten their food or been shopping. You don’t even know the currency.”

Nagham shared her story in the aptly titled book The Bloody Unknown – a collection of stories, recipes, and artwork from Tasmanians with refugee and migrant backgrounds.

“I hope it gives people the courage to talk,” she said.

“It is good for others to read about your experience – it can give them strength. We are not alone. You sacrifice a lot, but you stand up on your feet again. You build a happy life for your family.”

And build a happy life she did, sharing traditional recipes with her new community as a private caterer and taking on a bicultural worker role with CatholicCare.

“People love Iraqi food – they love my food,” she laughed.

“I used to feed everyone at CatholicCare. Everyone is getting fed when I am there!”

Nagham works with the community, delivering cultural awareness programs to educate people on how to interact with those from various refugee backgrounds.

“I work with Arabic refugees, too,” she said.

“When someone comes to the country, sometimes for hours they don’t see anyone who speaks their language. Then suddenly, I am there to talk to them. It fills my heart with joy. It makes me able to feel the difference I am making for my people.”

Nagham said she hoped The Bloody Unknownwould help the wider community be more understanding and accepting of refugees and people from different backgrounds.

“Sometimes people don’t want to interfere; they think maybe we don’t have any English, or they don’t want to scare us or make us feel uncomfortable,” she said.

“We are on the same side, but we are scared to step forwards and so are they. We need an icebreaker, and that is what I hope this book will do.”

Writer Madeleine Rojahn said she and co-producer, graphic designer Joshua Quigley, had similar thoughts in mind when the idea for the book first struck.

“I hope it encourages a more inclusive, understanding,

The Bloody Unknown book cover
The Bloody Unknown book cover

and interconnected community,” she said.

“The book aims to break down barriers using honest, vulnerable stories from people, beautiful photographs, art and recipes contributed by different communities - because cooking and eating food is a universal means for connection.”

CatholicCare Tasmania Community Engagement case worker Kate Madden said the organisation’s Multicultural Service Programs team were thankful The Bloody Unknown existed to showcase the diversity and culture of the local community.

“The coffee table book is a beautiful representation of local migrants around Tasmania, many who have overcome great challenges and perilous journeys to be here,” she said.

The non-profit book is available for purchase through the website: thebloodyunknown.com

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Building bridges through food and culture

Nagham Al-knani

Imagine fleeing your home for a new and unfamiliar country; holding your two young children close while you struggle to decipher the language, the food, the culture.

Nagham Al-knani has done all that, and more.

“I came from Iraq 13 years ago with my two girls,” she said.

“I lost my husband in the war when I was pregnant with my little one. It was horrific. It was very, very hard.”

The CatholicCare Tasmania bicultural support worker said finding her way in Tasmania had at first been frightening and overwhelming.

“You need to learn everything from zero,” she explained.

“You have never lived in that country, never spoken their language, never done any of the traditional things. You haven’t eaten their food or been shopping. You don’t even know the currency.”

Nagham shared her story in the aptly titled book The Bloody Unknown – a collection of stories, recipes, and artwork from Tasmanians with refugee and migrant backgrounds.

“I hope it gives people the courage to talk,” she said.

“It is good for others to read about your experience – it can give them strength. We are not alone. You sacrifice a lot, but you stand up on your feet again. You build a happy life for your family.”

And build a happy life she did, sharing traditional recipes with her new community as a private caterer and taking on a bicultural worker role with CatholicCare.

“People love Iraqi food – they love my food,” she laughed.

“I used to feed everyone at CatholicCare. Everyone is getting fed when I am there!”

Nagham works with the community, delivering cultural awareness programs to educate people on how to interact with those from various refugee backgrounds.

“I work with Arabic refugees, too,” she said.

“When someone comes to the country, sometimes for hours they don’t see anyone who speaks their language. Then suddenly, I am there to talk to them. It fills my heart with joy. It makes me able to feel the difference I am making for my people.”

Nagham said she hoped The Bloody Unknownwould help the wider community be more understanding and accepting of refugees and people from different backgrounds.

“Sometimes people don’t want to interfere; they think maybe we don’t have any English, or they don’t want to scare us or make us feel uncomfortable,” she said.

“We are on the same side, but we are scared to step forwards and so are they. We need an icebreaker, and that is what I hope this book will do.”

Writer Madeleine Rojahn said she and co-producer, graphic designer Joshua Quigley, had similar thoughts in mind when the idea for the book first struck.

“I hope it encourages a more inclusive, understanding,

The Bloody Unknown book cover
The Bloody Unknown book cover

and interconnected community,” she said.

“The book aims to break down barriers using honest, vulnerable stories from people, beautiful photographs, art and recipes contributed by different communities - because cooking and eating food is a universal means for connection.”

CatholicCare Tasmania Community Engagement case worker Kate Madden said the organisation’s Multicultural Service Programs team were thankful The Bloody Unknown existed to showcase the diversity and culture of the local community.

“The coffee table book is a beautiful representation of local migrants around Tasmania, many who have overcome great challenges and perilous journeys to be here,” she said.

The non-profit book is available for purchase through the website: thebloodyunknown.com

Other news you may be interested in

Other news