50

Footscray

F intro

 

Welcome to Melbourne, a city I’ve never spent more than a few days in or explored beyond the obvious – Fitzroy, St Kilda, that sort of thing. And anyway, that was eons ago, when Fitzroy was the latest hip thing and Chapel Street was still cool.

What was it like nowadays I wondered – and so here we are, city No 13 on 52 Suburbs Around the World.

I’d planned to spend longer but the way things have worked out means that we’ll only be here for two weeks, which, considering the size (four million-ish) and diversity of Melbourne is really not enough to do the city justice. But I need to get Coco back to school (she’s already missing the first week or so) and so two suburbs it will have to be.

For the first of those two suburbs I ended up choosing one that quite a few people suggested on my Facebook page – Footscray, five kilometres west of the city.

Some fast facts… Aboriginal forever until 1803 when the first European stepped foot in the area. Declared a municipality in 1859 with a population of 300 and 70 buildings. Industrial from mid-1800s until the 1960s and 70s when it began to decline. Central Footscray is now one of the main shopping and transport hubs for Melbourne’s western suburbs. Once very European, today the suburb is mainly Asian and African.

Ready?

 

Part 1: Footscray in a former life

Once upon a time the Footscray shopping strip was a little Europe, with Greeks, Italians and Yugoslavians filling the place. Times have clearly changed – I think I counted just three Italian establishments and not even one Greek joint. But I did find a Greek Orthodox Church and a wonderful Italian pasticceria dishing out some of the best cannoli in Melbourne.

 

 

old Footscray - Heidi at the Greek Orthodox church

old Footscray – Heidi at the Greek Orthodox church

 

 

 

 

Standing outside the Italian pasticceria, T Cavallaro and Sons, that’s been fattening up the suburb for more than 50 years, I met Ben and Matthew, 10 year old twins from an Italian background. They were in Footscray with their parents to pick up a cake for the 50th wedding anniversary of their nonna and nonno.

 

 

double-take - redheads in Footscray

double-take – redheads in Footscray :: 1

 

 

 

 

Ben and Matthew, 10, from an Italian background, picking up a cake for the 50th wedding anniversary of their nonna and nonno

double-take – redheads in Footscray :: 2

 

 

 

 

Apparently the pasticceria’s cannoli also draw crowds from all around with their creamy, thick, thigh-expanding deliciousness.

 

 

the best in town - cannelloni from T Cavallaro and Sons

the best in town – cannoli from T Cavallaro and Sons

 

 

 

 

Sitting at one of the cafes along a street that’s now dominated mainly by East African men, I caught sight of something else very European – a beret sitting atop the head of 77 year old Elias, originally from Bosnia.

 

 

Elias, 77, from Bosnia - "Where have I lived in Melbourne? Richmond and Footscray"

Elias, 77, from Bosnia – “Where have I lived in Melbourne? Richmond, Footscray, lots of places”

 

 

 

 

In search of more Greeks or Italians, I headed to Yarraville, just down the road from Footscray, where I found a Greek christening taking place.

 

 

"There's a few of us still here in Yarraville" - a Greek Christening

“There’s a few of us still here in Yarraville” – a Greek Christening

 

 

 

 

Zoe at her cousin's Christening at a Greek Orthodox church, Yarraville

Zoe at her cousin’s Christening at a Greek Orthodox church, Yarraville

 

 

 

 

But that was about it for signs of the old European Footscray – today it’s quite a different story…

 

 

Part 2: Footscray today

Or Footscary as some people refer to it thanks to the crime and drug problems it once faced and still faces to some extent.

Locals told me that 15 years ago the whole area, from Footscray to Yarraville, was down at heel and druggy. “If you got off at Yarraville train station, or Seddon, or Footscray, you’d be offered drugs”, was what I kept hearing.

Since then Yarraville cleaned up its act and is now fully gentrified. And Seddon, which is much closer to Footscray – in fact, is actually considered a part of Footscray – looks pretty glam too.

But Footscray itself, especially around the shopping centre, is still yet ‘to go’ – as one lady said, “The trendies haven’t made it here yet thank god”. Instead, it’s populated largely by immigrants – Vietnamese, Chinese and, more recently, East Africans.

Having said that, there is one part of the suburb, along the Maribyrnong River, that’s been designated an arts precinct. One moment you’re in highly multicultural Footscray, the next you’re looking over the river, latte in hand from the Happy River Cafe, before taking a round of the Footscray Community Arts Centre.

 

 

Footscray today - at one end, artsy, the other, Asian

Footscray today – at one end, artsy, the other, Asian

 

 

 

 

Danny and Jo, from China

Danny and Jo, from China

 

 

 

 

"We live here because of the markets and the fact it's so close to the city"

“We live here because of the markets and the fact it’s so close to the city”

 

 

 

 

the latest strangers to be welcomed into Footscray - Africans

the latest strangers to be welcomed into Footscray – Africans

 

 

 

 

transplanted traditions - "It takes six hours for them to do my hair like this and it lasts four months" - Daruka from Sudan

transplanted traditions – “It takes six hours for them to do my hair like this” – Daruka from Sudan

 

 

 

 

African Town

African Town

 

 

 

 

Ngor, 6, from the recently created South Sudan

Ngor, 6, from the recently created South Sudan

 

 

 

Medina from Ethiopia

Medina from Ethiopia

 

 

 

 

growing up Aussie - Medina's daughter, Hawi

growing up Aussie – Medina’s daughter, Hawi

 

 

 

 

Part 3: Arty Footscray

I was checking out the ‘legendary’ Olympic Donuts stand near the station one day when a young African woman in jeans and boots stopped by for a bag of the sugary goodness – after spending days watching the Sudanese, Somali and Ethiopian women go about their business in their traditional dress (most of whom refused to be photographed, drat it) I was curious.

Turned out that Duaa, a 22 year old recent RMIT graduate, was from an Eritrean background but had been born in Melbourne, in nearby Yarraville.

She explained that she now lived a little further west but had just started renting a studio in Footscray to do her art in.

For her, being a “hybrid” as she called it wasn’t confusing or difficult, but something she enjoyed.

And she loved Footscray for its cultural diversity and edge – and cheap rent.

 

 

Duaa, 22, born and bred in Western Melbourne by parents from Eritrea

“I like being a hybrid, it’s normal now in this country” – Duaa

 

 

 

 

Given her studio’s address – in one of the dodgiest bits of Footscray, near where a handful of druggies hang around every day – the rent was attractively cheap. And the colourful graphics painted along the laneway were doing their best to uplift. But still, you couldn’t help looking over your shoulder once or twice.

 

 

outside her studio

“My family wasn’t thrilled when I told them where my studio was” – Duaa, outside her studio

 

 

 

 

"I like being a hybrid of Eritrean and Australian, it's normal now in this country"

“I don’t want to be famous, I just want to make art that’s considered significant in some way”

 

 

 

 

"If I work late, I always check to see who's hanging around downstairs before I go - it can be a little scary at times"

“If I work late, I always check to see who’s hanging around downstairs before I go – it can be a little scary”

 

 

 

 

Part 4: West Footscray

Technically a separate suburb but one that I strayed into without realising I’d actually left Footscray proper. And interesting because this is where the Indian part of Footscray is, as well as the latest wave of new arrivals – whities. Or as someone I met who lived there said, “West Footscray is where people from Elwood (an eastern suburb) come to breed”.

 

 

Kalpita and Priyanka, in West Footscray for an Indian friend's child's birthday party

Kalpita and Priyanka, in West Footscray for an Indian friend’s child’s birthday party

 

 

 

 

India

India

 

 

 

 

twirls - candles from the Macedonian church and Priyanka's dress

twirls – candles from the Macedonian church and Priyanka’s dress

 

 

 

 

the most recent arrivals - whities - Matt with son Euan, 9, bought in West Footscray 3 years ago

the most recent arrivals – whities – Matt with son Euan, 9, bought in West Footscray 3 years ago

 

 

 

 

West Footscray - recently turned homely

West Footscray – recently turned homely :: 1

 

 

 

 

West Footscray - recently turned homely :: 2

West Footscray – recently turned homely :: 2

 

 

 

 

patriotism in the burbs - Australia Day, West Footscray

patriotism in the burbs – Australia Day, West Footscray

 

 

 

 

Part 5: And then I met…

Driving along the main road in West Footscray one day, I noticed men in stetsons standing outside ‘501 Receptions’. Texans? Mexicans? I circled back and went inside the building to find a wedding in full swing. But they weren’t Texans or Mexicans – these were gypsies.

My delight at crashing a gypsy wedding was, however, short-lived. I’d only taken a few shots when a tough looking broad – and she can only be described as a broad – suddenly swooped on me and ordered me to leave. Why I do not know – gypsies have a long history of being misrepresented but I’d already asked permission and been warmly welcomed by everyone, including the mothers of both the groom and the bride who were perfectly happy to let me take photographs.

After all the refusals by the African men and women earlier in the week, it was incredibly frustrating – there were some amazing looking people in the room and I was so curious to learn more.

What made it worse was the way the woman did it – I mean, sure, ask me to leave nicely – but don’t march me out like a child.

So I acted like a child and snuck in another few shots while she wasn’t looking – of a man who turned out to be the proud son of Ruby Sterio, the Queen of Gypsies and part of the famous Sterio gypsy family. Then I left.

 

 

Bill, father of the groom

Bill, father of the groom

 

 

 

 

"We live in a caravan and move all the time" 1

“We live in a caravan and move all the time” :: 1

 

 

 

 

"We live in a caravan and move all the time" :: 2

“We live in a caravan and move all the time” :: 2

 

 

 

 

free as a gypsy

free as a gypsy

 

 

 

 

wild west

wild west indeed

 

 

 

Driving around after I’d left the gypsies, I turned a random corner to find yet another unexpected sight – a large Buddhist temple in the midst of normal suburban homes.

Fearing the place was empty, I climbed the stairs and peered through the gap in the large front door to see and hear two Buddhist nuns praying.

After the experience with the aggressive woman at the gypsy wedding, I sat happily, listening to the soothing prayers until the nuns had finished. Then I asked if I could photograph them – and hallelujah, they said yes. And they stood, and they stood, and they stood, until I’d done what I needed to do. They giggled, I laughed, we all smiled.

 

 

 

prayer time

prayer time

 

 

 

 

zen in West Footscray -Vietnamese Buddhist Church, Phat Quang Pagoda

zen in West Footscray -Vietnamese Buddhist Church, Phat Quang Pagoda

 

 

 

 

they pray for "world peace and people's happiness" :: 1

they pray for “world peace and people’s happiness” :: 1

 

 

 

 

they pray for "world peace and people's happiness" :: 2

they pray for “world peace and people’s happiness” :: 2

 

 

 

 

a different world

a different world

 

 

 

 

from Yarraville to West Footscray

from Yarraville to West Footscray

 

 

 

 

old and new Australia

old and new Australia

 

 

 

 

The Wrap

The diversity in Footscray isn’t limited to the various nationalities and cultures. It’s also incredibly diverse in its land use and the way it changes so quickly from one thing to another. 

For example, down near the river there’s the Community Arts Centre and cool cafe (where the annual Laneway Festival kicks off this weekend) which are right opposite an old factory where blokes like Tony, Lance and Brendan work, waiting for that inevitable day when their factory gets ‘recycled’ into fancy apartments – “In three years we’ll be gone for sure”.

 

 

great views for a factory - Tony, Lance and Brendan at the Ryco hydraulic factory - "In three years this'll be fancy apartments for sure"

great views for a factory – Tony, Lance and Brendan at the Ryco hydraulic factory

 

 

 

 

Then up near the Footscray shops, there’s Asia and Africa – as well as myriad churches catering for the various different communities.

 

 

church land

church land

 

 

 

But as soon as you hit Seddon, which is five seconds down the road, it’s vintage shops like The Diamond Dog, run by the wonderful Sally, and hip cafes.

 

 

from Vietnam to vintage

from Vietnam to vintage

 

 

 

 

playing dress up just down the road in Seddon and Yarraville

playing dress up just down the road in Seddon and Yarraville

 

 

And there’s more change in store – Footscray has been designated a key growth area for Melbourne and the government has big plans for it. But even without that, given the way the surrounding areas have gentrified, maybe Footscray would end up going that way too. In short, go see it now – before the “trendies” get to it.

 

 

On the ‘home front’

Like Auckland, we’re lucky enough to be staying with friends here. So like Auckland, Coco sat this one out too. But here’s a shot of her with two Swedish girls at St kilda Library who we met on our way to buy groceries one day.

 

 

Coco and the Swedish girls

Coco and the Swedish girls

 

 

 

As I mentioned, some time next week – probably mid-week given I have yet to start shooting the second Melbourne suburb – Coco will pull on heavy black shoes and a green tartan uniform, and for the first time in over a year, do that most normal of things – go to school.

I asked her how she felt about it, after such a long time away – “Well I’m excited but a little nervous”. Fair enough, I thought, I am too.

 —

This suburb has been brought to you by Bronwyn Evans

See you next week – for the penultimate post.

 

8

Tilak Nagar

TN intro

 

Week four in Delhi and the lucky last in India. (Yes, I was contemplating extending our stay on the subcontinent, maybe swinging over to Calcutta for a quick look see, but in the end I decided to stick to the original timings and press on westwards to Istanbul tomorrow.)

Having touched briefly on Islam, Hinduism and the Jains over the last three weeks, I wanted to spend our final week here taking a look at the third largest religion in India, Sikhism.

So I nipped over to the biggest Sikh temple in Delhi before heading west to the largely Sikh neighbourhood of Tilak Nagar, some 17 km from the city centre.

While 17km isn’t very far, west Delhi felt quite different to the south where our last three neighbourhoods have been. It’s as dirty and dusty, probably more so, but there’s just something I liked better. Perhaps it’s the Sikhs themselves, infusing the place with their noble principles of equality amongst all humans, no matter what caste, creed or gender.

Let’s go Tilak Nagar!

 

Part 1: The big Sikh temple

Although I usually shy away from anything remotely big or touristy, I made an exception with Bangla Sahib Gurudwara, Delhi’s largest Sikh temple, located slam bam in the city centre. As I was pretty clueless about Sikhism I thought I might meet some Sikhs there and get a heads up before hitting the suburbs. The place is impressive but I went on a Sunday when it was so crowded with devotees and tourists that I didn’t dally.

Before I left, however, I met a bride-to-be performing a pre-wedding ritual with her family, and had a quick glance at the Sikh langar or ‘free kitchen’ that feeds up to 10,000 people a day no matter what their caste or creed – because Sikhism is all about inclusiveness, sharing and community.

 

finery

finery

 

 

 

Sunday best

Sunday best

 

 

 

the blushing bride to be

the blushing bride to be

 

 

 

super-size me :: 1

super-size me :: 1

 

 

 

super-size me :: 2

super-size me :: 2

 

 

 

super-size me :: 3

super-size me :: 3

 

 

 

Part 2: The little Sikh temple

After my flying visit to Delhi’s largest gurudwara, I headed west to possibly Delhi’s smallest, in Tilak Nagar. As usual, I found the local, untouristy alternative so much more satisfying.

As soon as I entered the gurudwara I was ushered upstairs by a gaggle of kids to meet the families who live on the premises. There wasn’t a lot of chit chat until I met the charming and cheeky Navneet Singh, a 14 year old Sikh nicknamed Paras who speaks perfect English. He lives outside the temple but was there with his sister and cousins for their regular music lesson. Luckily for me he was early and I was able to quiz him about all things Sikh.

Thanks to Paras I left the little gurudwara not long after feeling slightly less clueless than I had when I’d wandered in.

 

residents of the gurudwara :: 1

residents of the gurudwara :: 1

 

 

 

residents of the gurudwara :: 2

residents of the gurudwara :: 2

 

 

 

his turban was the colour of Jalebi

his turban was the colour of Jalebi

 

 

 

Navneet Singh, 'Paras'

Navneet Singh, 'Paras'

 

 

 

free spirits

free spirits

 

 

 

Prabhjot Kaur, friend of Paras

Prabhjot Kaur, friend of Paras

 

 

 

waiting for their music teacher

waiting for their music teacher

 

 

 

2 of the 5 K's - the Kara bracelet and Kirpan sword

2 of the 5 K's - the Kara bracelet and Kirpan sword

 

 

 

filling the gurudwara with their music

filling the gurudwara with their music

 

 

 

Part 3: Tying the knot, Sikh style

The second thing that made my visit to Tilak Nagar so unexpectedly enjoyable was also completely unplanned. For the past few weeks I’ve been wanting to stumble on a wedding. I’d almost given up hope of serendipity providing me with one when on visit number two to Tilak Nagar, I noticed jasmine in the hair of a woman as she walked quickly past my taxi. Now, jasmine in your locks can only mean one thing in India – a wedding. So I leapt out the taxi, ran up to the woman and with all the grace of an excited five year old stammered, “Wedding?!”

Yes, wedding. And what was more, I was in time to join the procession to the gurudwara which entailed a horse-drawn carriage and the wedding party dancing in the streets. Far from being viewed as a nosey outsider, I was welcomed like an honoured guest. In fact, for the first time in my life I think I was auspicious; as soon as I joined in the dancing, everyone clapped madly and money was waved over my head, in exactly the same way as the Jains had done two weeks earlier. Either that or they thought it was hilarious to watch the white chick trying to emulate their hip shaking dance routine. It was all caught on video by not one but two videographers. The things you do.

 

must be a wedding

must be a wedding

 

 

 

smiling band

smiling band

 

 

 

east and west-ish

east and west-ish

 

 

 

Before the procession started, we all had to wait around a fair while. Which is kind of tedious when you’re just a tot. Even when your twin is right beside you. And especially when you have to wear beads in front of your face as part of some century old tradition. Bor-ing.

 

double despair :: 1

double despair :: 1

 

 

 

double despair :: 2

double despair :: 2

 

 

 

double despair :: 3

double despair :: 3

 

 

 

c'mon kids, at least you're not at the dentist

c'mon kids, at least you're not at the dentist

 

 

 

the wait over, they make their way to the gurudwara

the wait over, they make their way to the gurudwara

 

 

 

dancin' in the streets

dancin' in the streets

 

 

 

and then the world exploded

and then the world exploded

 

 

 

Eventually the procession ended up at the gurudwara and after a few rituals – garlands of flowers being donned, prayers sung – the bride suddenly appeared and made her way over to the waiting groom. The groom unveiled the bride’s chooda or wedding bangles and then rid himself of his own veil, before they all filed inside the gurudwara; I stuck my head in briefly to see everyone sitting around while various songs were sung and rituals performed. I felt I’d intruded long enough and it was time to go.

 

the bride appears

the bride appears

 

 

 

approaching the groom

approaching the groom

 

 

 

unwrapping her 'chooda', wedding bangles

unwrapping her 'chooda', wedding bangles

 

 

 

a wedding where the man wears the veil and she wears everything else

a wedding where the man wears the veil and she wears everything else

 

 

 

the bridesmaid and the flower boy, maybe

the bridesmaid and the flower boy, maybe

 

 

 

all the best for a long, happy marriage my children

all the best for a long, happy marriage my children

 

 

 

Part 4: And just for good measure, a Hindu temple

In the Sikh spirit of inclusiveness, and seeing as it was the birthday of Hindu god Shiva this week, I made a brief visit to a couple of local Hindu temples in the area.

 

look Shiva, she's getting married on your birthday

look Shiva, she's getting married on your birthday

 

 

 

Hindu temple of Santoshi Maa, Mother of Satisfaction

Hindu temple of Santoshi Maa, Mother of Satisfaction

 

 

 

Santoshi Maa temple and devotee

Santoshi Maa temple and devotee

 

 

 

Hindu and Sikh, living in harmony

Hindu and Sikh, living in harmony

 

 

 

Part 5: On the road

One of the things you first notice when you arrive in Delhi is how many taxis are driven by the turbaned Sikh. And seeing also as I have spent so much time sitting in taxis over the last month, in traffic or just getting from A to B, I thought it apt that we end with images from the road.

 

Mr Amar Singh, taxi-driver for 40 years

Mr Amar Singh, taxi-driver for 40 years

 

 

 

mobile gurudwara - reading prayers in his cab

mobile gurudwara - reading prayers in his cab

 

 

 

white as a Hindustan Ambassador :: 1

white as a Hindustan Ambassador :: 1

 

 

 

white as a Hindustan Ambassador :: 2

white as a Hindustan Ambassador :: 2

 

 

 

white as a Hindustan Ambassador :: 3

white as a Hindustan Ambassador :: 3

 

 

 

through the car window - the eunuch and the armless man

through the car window - the eunuch and the armless man

 

 

 

through the car window - the flower seller

through the car window - the flower seller

 

 

 

through the car window - the window cleaner

through the car window - the window cleaner

 

 

 

The Wrap

Tilak Nagar ain’t no oil painting. But I really enjoyed it, thanks largely to Paras at the gurudwara and the Sikh wedding party. My visit to India would’ve felt incomplete without a wedding; I bow low before my god, Serendipity, and give humble thanks.

 

Thanks India, it's been wonderful and terrible, uplifting and depressing, joyful and sad

Thanks India, it's been wonderful and terrible, uplifting and depressing, joyful and sad

 

 

On the ‘home front’

Coco and I would also like to say a huge thanks to everyone in the house here for the various ways in which they’ve all helped over the last month. To Ronnie, Suzy, Wayne, Jed and Jennifer, dhanyavād!

I know he’ll never read this but thanks also to Sebastian, for fighting the traffic chaos to deliver me safely to whatever destination madam required.

I am looking forward to getting on that plane tomorrow – but there are things I’m going to miss. The colours of course. But other less obvious things, like being asked what my ‘good name’ is. And seeing joy go dancing down the streets, in the form of a Jain celebration or a Sikh wedding. And the street kids, who don’t know they could justifiably complain to the high heavens about their circumstances but instead just get on with it, playing under the overpasses and laughing their way through the dust and dirt.

This suburb has been brought to you by Simeon and Sarah

See you next week. In Istanbul…

 

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