2019 > Kaseh Ibu


Our mother came to this country for love. Her love has shaped and grounded me. We are here, in this space to celebrate her and share with you what she means to us.

My childhood memories are full of her creative and nurturing pursuits. Cooking was a shared process where we learnt about growing food, preparing and sharing it. There was the composting, chickens and a pet lamb (who was given away and later served up). Mum always kept an abundant, lush garden and could grow anything. This brings back images of Abdul- Rahman in the strawberry patch as a toddler in just his nappy, covered in red juice. Picking lemons and baking lemon cake for neighbors and friends that endlessly filled our house. Drinking cups of tea, borrowing sugar, building cubby houses and climbing the almond, oak or jacaranda tree. We took good cooking for granted. Mums chicken curry, actually anything mum cooked tasted better than good.

Mum used quinoa, brown rice, sprouting and organic when it was uncool. Especially for me as a child who envied the white bread and Tim tams my classmates brought to school. I can’t thank her enough now. Even her vegemite sandwich (whole meal with cucumbers) didn’t quite work but I thank you again mum. I see now where you were going with it!

Mums love of plants inspired her to study Horticulture. I remember her files and books spread across the dining table, her reciting Latin names for different species, committing them to memory. Us kids standing by the car on the side of the road, shielding her while those ever-present secateurs clipped cuttings. We all had nets to catch insects; mum would dry and pin them. There were flowers to be pressed. Mum laying our lawn, installing the reticulation. Fond memories of a childhood with a garden and so much more.

Now, as you can see, mum paints the most beautiful and intricate plants, she is a master of Botanical Art. But you can’t tell her that. She teaches children and adult’s pottery and painting. She joins a group of fellow painters each week for as long as I can remember. Women painting together.

Mum completed a Fashion Design course and could already sew and make her own patterns. She made most of her clothes growing up, also for her siblings and here in Australia, for us. Mum sewed lingerie to support us through hard times. She sewed for friends and neighbours. My dresses were hand made from the time I was born to my wedding day. I remember flicking through magazines at seventeen looking for a ball dress. Mum made me a version I can look back on today without a hint of cringe, it's timeless.

My wedding dress was perfect; mum’s skills were exceptional. She hand dyed the brocade on all three bridesmaids dresses she also made. She took a make-up course, a cake decorating course and a flower- arranging course for my bouquets. My own sub standard abilities were always bolstered by the knowledge that mum will do it better. That mum will be here forever and always have my back.

That brings me to my mother’s nature. Her character. Her strength. My mother came from an environment that valued education. She was denied it. Rather, her value was dictated by how well she could bear and raise children, look after a husband and cook.

My mother is continuously educating herself through courses and workshops. She then creates beauty and sustenance at the highest level. It doesn’t stop there. Mum takes what she has learnt and shares with her community, teaching with the same dedication, care and directness she brought us up with. Whether they are troubled teens from disadvantaged backgrounds, people attending community centres with disabilities or social disadvantage, refugees, children and adults alike. Mum has always been able to create progress and connection where those with titles have not done so well.

Living in Australia wasn’t easy. Mum came here as a migrant and with difference comes prejudice. It has affected all of us in different ways. I am fiercely protective of her. Mum always had to try harder for acceptance, even to be heard and that infuriates me. Yet she remains calm and I have raged. As a child one of my first reactions to overt racism was to poke out my tongue and pull a face. What followed was a slap and quiet reprimand from my mother.

Today my mother is proudly who she is and unapologetically speaks her mind as it should be. She doesn’t want me to write about her because ‘there is nothing to write’. This exhibition shouldn’t be about her she says, but we, her children will always place her front and centre, no matter how often she marches off at speed, pointing at something in the distance and disappearing between the aisles.

Mum is unassumingly talented at everything she puts her hand to; the most educated of all of us (ten years of tertiary education at last count). She paints better than she will take credit for and her work sells- a true professional. She is kind and forgiving but never forgets. She taught me that you take the best from examples in your life and leave the worst behind. To grow is to evolve, be better. She listens and reflects and treats us fairly. Although I think I got more slaps growing up as the eldest.

Her maternal instinct see’s our children unconditionally well loved, fed and looked after. Nenek is every grandchild’s favourite. Their young lives are filled with her presence. I am so grateful for that.

We were united as an immediate family recently for my paternal grandmothers funeral. Fifty-seven hours on a plane, van and in an apartment. Despite the sad circumstances we were happy, reverting to childhood banter, cocooned in each other’s presence with mum, of course at the centre. We share an unbreakable, close bond. My siblings and my parents can talk endlessly; we have so much love for each other. Mum was so joyous, she told me that we lift her up and give her confidence. That made my heart burst. I just wanted to hug her and never let go.

Rabiah Letizia