So, somewhere between the last blog post and this one I visited Galang refugee camp in Indonesia. Emotionally, mentally and physically it is (now) such a bizarre place that I am yet to properly process it for myself. Hence why this post is coming before that one.
Last year I gave very short talks for two Next Wave events, Breakfast Club at the ungodly hour of 8am and Supper Club at an hour that actually exist for me. One was on the topic of family and the creative process and the other about food and the creative process. And though I do not claim superior knowledge in any of these areas, I do know the role that both of these play in my own creative/artistic practice.
Hence this post combines both food and family…
The first Indochinese War started on 19 December 1946 and with it came the overthrow of French colonial rule. My maternal grandfather as an executive of a French tobacco company made the choice to uproot his family during this war and relocate to Phnom Penh, Cambodia sometime during this period. It was there that my mother was born in 1958, and they stayed throughout the Vietnam War alongside other Vietnamese.
As part of the educated French literate class and being Vietnamese, the rise of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge marked my mothers family as undesirable. The fear my grandmother had for the safety of her children, in particular her daughters meant that she would quickly marry them off to anyone she saw as decent who could take then safely back across the boarder to Vietnam.
My mum had told me stories of Vietnamese girls, who were identifiable by long hair (as traditional for those who are not yet married), being decapitated as they went about their day in public, and trucks that were suppose to repatriate Vietnamese driven off cliffs. I’m not sure if any of this was true, but given the extent of atrocities that we now know occurred at the hands of the Khmer Rouge I would not be surprised if it was.
Throughout the 1970’s the family trickled back into Vietnam, most of them settling in what is now Q10 (district 10), the Khmer ghetto. This is where my Di 7 (Aunt 7) and several other family members still reside.
Besides being the biggest flower market in Saigon (possibly the country) Q10 is also known as the best place to get hủ tiếu, a rice noodle dish with pork served in a stock or dry. I had always assumed of this dish as Vietnamese, until a few years ago when I made my first trip to Vietnam as an adult and it was explained to me that the dish originated in Cambodia and was brought by those migrating back into Vietnam… Where Q10 is concerned anyway.
Today I went to get some hủ tiếu at one of the more popular places in Q10 and while sitting there with my niece, nephew and cousin I couldn’t help but think that within this cheap plastic bowl was a story of colonialism, war, displacement, dictatorship, ethnic cleansing and more displacement. All of that for 20,000 VND or 1 Aussie dollar…
Bad Iphone picture of my breakfast