Banya Hongsar : Mon food earned great acclaim among food stalls set up in the heart of Canberra, at the National Multicultural Festival held this past Saturday, February 6th.
The Australia Mon Association, led by board members and a working committee, set up a Mon food stall and a cultural dress shop at the centre of the festival for the 14th year in a row. The Multicultural Festival attracted over 40,000 people over the course of the day.
Nai Asoka, President of the Mon Association, and his deputy Mi Pakao Sond organized the stall, with cooks and stall assistants, along with Secretary Cheam Gakao; other association member saw to customers’ needs at the front of the stall. Over 100 Mon people visited the stall.
“We are not interested in making a profit, but rather we would like to be part of the National Multicultural Festival as a Mon community, so that we can be proud of being an active community in Australia, “ said, Nai Asoka.
“Our members are pleased to hold a cultural dance show that also attracted over a thousand people on the ground,” he added.
A team of stall holders wearing red T-shirts printed “Mon Food” at the front of the stall. The sides of the stall also displayed important images from the Mon culture, including “Kyeik La Gon – Shwedagon” pagoda and Mon history posters; Mon music was also played in the stall. Nai Khontoi worked harder than all his team workers playing music.
“I have been working all day to make this stall run smoothly. I have been with my cook team since 5:00 am, and I am relieved that we are supported by visitors and customers . People have asked me ‘ who are the Mon?’ more than thirty times this morning,” said, Nai Din Pla, a cooking team leader.
“We not only are selling food, but also we are telling our stories to them [the customers] as we serve food. This is the best part of the day for us, to tell our stories,” he added.
The Australia Mon Association was selected to set up a stall among 100 food stalls for the “Food and Dance Spectator” at the National Multicultural Festival, sponsored by the Australian Capitol Territory (ACT) Government in Canberra city. The Association was also funded by ACT “Multicultural Grants” to assist with the costs of dance training and cultural dress outfitting.
“I am tired but I am pleased that everyone from the Mon community is visiting our stall and is helping us make our team pleasant,” said Mi Pakao Sond, Vice –President of the Association.
“We have made a good [financial] return, but we are far happier that the Australian people are supporting our stall and enjoying our food,” she added.
Cheam Gakao, Secretary of the Association, was the busiest person in the stall. It was thanks to his energy and commitment that the Mon Association was recognized by the ACT government to perform Mon cultural dancing and set up a Mon food stall at the festival. He worked with festival officials at every level to participate in this event.
“Our Association is smaller than other communities’, but we can do business as they do business through our unity. I am proud to be part of the Association and to be working with our Mon people,” he said.
All funds raised will be invested in the “Mon Centre Fund”, as agreed upon by the Association’s board members and the Mon community. Both former and current Association treasures are working around the clock to ensure that all funds raised are secure and growing.
“It is our opportunity to raise more money, but we are also raising more awareness about plight of our people in homeland,” said Nai Seik Lun, Treasurer, as he smiled at visitors.
The home-made Mon food is sold to the Australian people each year at the festival.. The chefs cook with mixture of Mon, Thai and Burmese styles to optimize the look and taste of the food.
This year was the 14th year that a Mon food stall has set up at the festival. Mon leaders and members started from scratch in 1997 to run a food stall out of a shopping trailer when no one owned a vehicle. However, the Mon Association now owns all the equipment needed to operate a stall, thanks to the support of the Australian government.