Podcast interview with Durkhanai Ayubi

People of Adelaide

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About the guest

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Durkhanai Ayubi

"Home for me is many things. In some ways, I feel quite connected to my home in Adelaide and to the life that's been built here, but in other ways I'll forever feel like a traveller - and I think that's okay."

Forced by conflict to flee her birthplace of Afghanistan with her family when she was just two, first to a Refugee Camp before re-locating to Australia, Durkhanai Ayubi has grappled with questions around identity and belonging much of her life.

In Adelaide she has found the freedom to think, explore and seek out answers to many of those questions, as well as the opportunity to forge a connection, for herself and the broader community, back to her family's roots through the sharing of Afghani food.

In this episode, Durkhanai shares how she continues to discover her full potential as a member of Adelaide's much-loved Parwana restaurant family, a co-owner with her sisters of city eatery Kutchi Deli Parwana and through life-long learning.

Resources

Visit the Parwana website for more information about the Ayubi family's original Adelaide restaurant and updates on Durkhanai's cookbook, 'Parwana: Recipes and stories from an Afghan Kitchen' which is available now.

Find out more about Kutchi Deli Parwana, at their website.

Transcript

The transcript has been automatically transcribed for accessibility purposes; we apologise for any inconsistencies with the recording.

Voiceover (00:07):
Welcome to the Adelaide Living podcast, where we share the stories of the city. Adelaide is a city shaped by stories, those of the traditional owners of the land and of our increasingly diverse community. Each story is unique, but what links them is the place of Adelaide, a city designed for life. So join us as we uncover inspiring stories of the people of Adelaide.

Christina Hagger (00:40):
Who are you without historical connection to land? Durkhanai Ayubi was an infant when her family was forced to flee Afghanistan as refugees. Disconnected from roots and memories, they found safety and a future in Adelaide. Today, Durkhanai shares some of her family's journey - including building a network of traditional Afghani restaurants across the city; glorious food destinations that provide a cultural bridge to their past and invite people to question assumptions about race, about identity, and about place.

Durkhanai Ayubi (01:23):
Well, I suppose the story of being, well first, a refugee. My family left Afghanistan during the height of the Cold War, in the mid-'80s. It was obviously a time of great loss and sadness for the country and one that Afghanistan never truly recovered from because it's just been ongoing war and conflict there. So for us, leaving Afghanistan when I was around two, first we crossed the border into Pakistan where we lived in UN refugee camps for a couple of years. Basically, that was... I have no lived memory of that, but it shaped the earliest events of my life.

And, when I ask my mother about it now, because I was quite expecting her to describe the camps as quite a place where she didn't want to be, but actually she described it as a beacon of safety. I wrote in one of my pieces that she said that she smelled the scent of heaven there. That kind of made me want to explore that story further, as well.

So obviously, that kind of initial leaving Afghanistan and coming through Pakistan into Australia was about finding safety and peace, first and foremost, which is the story of most displaced people, migrants and refugees in the world today. So, for me as a young child, that initial story of the move shaped the rest of my life because, on the one hand it was a disconnection from roots and ancestral lands and memories and connections-

Christina Hagger (03:09):
Complete disconnection. Abrupt and complete.

Durkhanai Ayubi (03:10):
Absolutely, abrupt and complete. And for the first time in the trajectory of my family's history, that's what had happened. And with that came huge cultural loss and huge challenges to identity. So then, when we came to live in Australia, as I grew up it was about being extremely self-aware, because my identity wasn't taken for granted. I wasn't necessarily 'of this world'. I wasn't necessarily a part of or I didn't necessarily have the same cultural background as my peers or people that I went to school with. But then at the same time, I didn't have the same cultural connection that my parents might have had to Afghanistan because I didn't remember any of it.

So the trajectory of my life was shaped by that initial move, that story of migration. It challenged me to understand who I was deeply, to try to understand questions of identity at a deeper level. Who are you without connection to land? Who are you without the historical memory? Kind of being a part of your everyday life. In many ways, I'm very grateful for that trajectory because it encouraged me to question deeply and not to take things for granted.

Christina Hagger (04:28):
That is a fabulous reflection on what that disruption has allowed you to become. But growing up with all of that, how did you manage to traverse that? Because you moved first to Melbourne ..

Durkhanai Ayubi (04:43):
Yes, that's right.

Christina Hagger (04:43):
.. when you were still very little and then your family spent a couple of years there and then you came to Adelaide. Was this a case of trying to refine the process and make the best of this?

Durkhanai Ayubi (04:54):
Yeah, absolutely because I think that's human nature. Once you have the basic tenants to be able to live in safety and with peace and you have the capacity and, you know, we were lucky enough to kind of... I was kind of very into learning and I loved being at school and that kind of thing. So, once you have the access to safety and right to education and that kind of thing, I feel the mindset of that initial loss, something that you remember forever and that shapes you in conscious and subconscious ways, helps you transform challenges into opportunities.

For example, some of the biggest challenges I suppose were inter-generational. For a young child growing up, there's already... even if you don't have that story of disconnection and migration, there are inter-generational challenges, right, between parents and children.

Christina Hagger (05:55):
It's inter-generational.

Durkhanai Ayubi (05:56):
Exactly.

Christina Hagger (05:56):
It goes with parenting.

Durkhanai Ayubi (05:58):
But then add to that, the different cultural kind of norms that we as children had grown up with-

Christina Hagger (06:04):
Of course.

Durkhanai Ayubi (06:05):
... as opposed to what might have been the norm for my parents growing up and their sense of comfort and expression of culture. So really, what it does is it makes you question and be quite sure, of or try to be sure. Anyway, it's always a challenge. But to try and understand why you do what you do, why you are who you are, and to bring your parents along on that. Just like my parents have kind of imparted on us the importance of our culture, our tradition, our ancestry, which comes through in what we choose to do every day with our family restaurants, we kind of had to impart with them things that we could let go of that didn't serve us anymore and that maybe necessarily have never served anybody.

I think that's true of both cultures, you kind of get this... So, as somebody who was born in Afghanistan but living in Australia, I feel like intimately connected to both worlds. I can choose which parts of either of my culture to take on because they serve me and they serve me in the story of being human and in human expression and which parts to let go of, and both kind of cultural norms definitely have parts that can be let go of.

Christina Hagger (07:26):
You were able to connect with your former culture, your current culture and blend them into something that made it stronger. That says a lot for you as an individual. It says a lot for you as a family. So where is the sense of belonging? I mean, I know one question that is sometimes asked is, where do you find home? Where is home? What is home?

Durkhanai Ayubi (07:53):
Yeah. It's a really fascinating question and it's actually not something that I can answer too easily, I don't think. And I love that I can't answer that question easily, because home for me is many things. In some ways, I feel quite connected to my home in Adelaide and to the life that's been built here but in other ways I'll forever feel like a traveller - and I think that's okay, because there is a part of my hundreds if not thousands of years of my history and my ancestry that I'll never fully know because of the story of ongoing conflict and war and that initial disconnection, that move to Australia. But at the same time, I think we're actually all challenging this idea of home because of the way the world is unfolding.

There are layers to what home means today, and it's not just a physical place. I feel like I've learnt that through my studies, a fellowship I've been doing, interacting with communities in different ways. I've learnt to understand that for me, home is more about a feeling. It's a feeling I get when I'm with people that I love. It's a feeling I have when I am steeped in learning. It's really a feeling or the ability to express being human in ways that are unencumbered. I think if you don't have that, you could be anywhere and it wouldn't necessarily feel like home. So more than a physicality and I suppose this comes from the trajectory of disconnection and migration. For me, home is something that is much deeper and it has different layers to it and you could feel more of that connection or less, and you could be in the same place. It just depends on your spiritual essence of how you're feeling and whether you are able to live to your full potential or not.

Christina Hagger (10:00):
Living life to full potential is a challenge, I think, for everybody.

Durkhanai Ayubi (10:04):
Yeah.

Christina Hagger (10:05):
It sounds like you have been grasping your full potential all the way through. Tell us, I wasn't aware of your fellowship?

Durkhanai Ayubi (10:12):
I think this is another thing that has formed part of my identity because of that story of migration, and that is that - you do seek for ways to express your potential because, if I think about what life might be like without the freedom to think and without the freedom to explore who I am as a female, as someone growing up in a Muslim culture and from Afghanistan, and if I look at, I suppose, the way the trajectory of the country has unfolded there, I wouldn't necessarily have the capacity to learn and to explore and express myself as a female which says something for decades of war and what it does to society and what it takes away.

So for me, potential is something that I care about deeply and I search for a lot and I search for ways to express it. Lately in my life, that has been through working with my family in our family restaurants and that's a way to stay really close to my own heart lines and to be able to express my story, which is I feel really important for me.

Lately, the last two years, I've been very fortunate to be part of a fellowship run by the Atlantic Institute, which is a philanthropic organisation based in New York. The institute is housed at Oxford, at Rhodes House in the UK. So, I've had this really wonderful and transformative experience actually of being in spaces and places with people who are thinking really deeply about the challenges that are facing us all, globally, and how those challenges are increasingly interconnected and how our fates as humans, as people, are so intertwined.

It really aligns deeply with the kind of the narrative around displacement at the moment. It's something I'm kind of... a lot of my work focuses on, because we kind of have these global narratives of displacement of migrants and refugees that is really quite xenophobic and based on fear. And. there are so many layers to why that narrative is unfolding the way it is today But the reality is that the mass displacement of people is an issue of our times and the history of the world has contributed to that the last few years.

So I feel like it's a challenge for the whole world to face collectively, as are so many challenges today like global warming, climate change, that kind of thing. And yet, we're kind of stuck in these silos, this isolationism, this kind of 'fingers of blame', that kind of thing. So what I'm trying to do is work on ways that we can change those narratives and start to broaden the context of how we view history, how we view our challenges, where we place ourselves within the challenges. And really I think it starts with totally shifting the narratives that we kind of subscribed to, without questioning too much.

Christina Hagger (13:10):
In your blog, you reflect as a first generation Muslim migrant to Australia on the dangers of the abyss of othering, or marginalising others by seeing them as somehow different from themselves. How do you see... You were talking globally. I'm pulling you back deliberately to Adelaide.

Durkhanai Ayubi (13:31):
Sure.

Christina Hagger (13:31):
How do you see the work that you and your family are doing are contributing to Adelaide having a more inclusive future?

Durkhanai Ayubi (13:39):
Yeah. I think that's a really nice question. I think it encapsulates exactly what I feel we're trying to do. Narratives for me, I've realised, are kind of everything. I think it really fuels why I am moved to do the things that I do. The restaurants, for us, in Adelaide, yes, absolutely, a huge part of it is the stories and the narratives. And absolutely, I believe you contribute to your local community, the people around you. For us sharing our food, so the recipes that we have at the restaurant are really old recipes that have been passed down to my mother through her grandmother, her grandmother before. So they've been passed down to my mother. And for us, it's an act of cultural preservation to actually remember those recipes and to share them with people in our home in Adelaide.

It's absolutely about narratives because food to me is not just food. To my family, it's a nonverbal narrative. It's a way, it's a bridge, it's a conduit between worlds. It's a way to ask people, invite them in in a really beautiful and delicious way to explore assumptions that they have about Afghanistan and the East generally and to kind of... Because the food is so beautiful and artistic and it kind of captures this really old history, I think it does kind of create new associations and a new narrative for people with a country like Afghanistan and that's a really important part of why we do what we do, but we can only do that because we're expressing something that is a legitimate part of our story. It takes on new meaning when you're a migrant and you're far from home, food takes on new meaning, and the act of sharing that and inviting people into the parts of Afghan culture that are so ancient and so beautiful and actually steeped in inter-culturalism, because Afghanistan was at the centre of the Silk Road and it was a trade route, so spices went from East to West, and North to South and back again. But it was also a place where ideas and philosophies were exchanged and where it shaped human civilisation today.

Just through the act of sharing our food and sharing it in a way that's enshrined in the culture - and a huge part of Afghan culture is that hospitality, like inviting people in with, however they are, whether it's with sadness or with joy that they're sitting there sharing meals with their families you know, that's a... and inviting people to bring their whole self into that space, which is any of our restaurants, and to feel as though they're truly welcomed there. That is a huge part of our food and the ethos around Afghan food.

Yeah I feel like - it's not lost on myself or my family that we're generating this new, I suppose, conversation around Afghanistan and the fact that people just love the food. And then from that, from that initial act of honouring that part of our culture, we've been able to do things like this, which is talk to you and to your listeners about why we can have different perspectives and why, what we've seen for like the last 10, 15 years or more isn't necessarily the full story. We're missing hundreds, if not thousands of years of stories and we're also missing ways that are more deeply human. So I think that's why that initial act of connection and sharing food and kind of feeling welcome in a space and having your ideas challenged is a really... it's not a confrontational thing. I think, people are looking for ways to kind of engage more deeply and to kind of find some answers to some of the questions that are a part of life today.

Christina Hagger (17:51):
Do you find that you came back to Adelaide for a reason? Why Adelaide? You'd moved to Canberra.

Durkhanai Ayubi (17:58):
Yeah.

Christina Hagger (17:59):
You'd studied in Adelaide. I think you'd been to university in Adelaide, is that right?

Durkhanai Ayubi (18:04):
Yes. I went to uni here. I studied high school, uni, everything here. I moved to Canberra for a job. I was a graduate at the ACMA, which is the Communications and Media Authority, so I was working for the federal government in communications and media policy. From Canberra, I moved to Melbourne with the same job, and it was really challenging and really wonderful. But it had been about seven or eight years and I just realised I was missing a piece of the puzzle and that was my own story, and a story I could tell with legitimacy, which was the story of my heart.

So for me and my family, we're at that point. We'd already had Parwana, it was up and running, it was small. My parents were kind of there every day, and we all kind of helped to make that happen. Like it happened as a family, which is really lovely. And I decided that I needed to come back, and if for nothing else, for myself because I needed to tell my own story and explore my own story with legitimacy that was about being close to what made me me.

Christina Hagger (19:11):
When it started, it was small?

Durkhanai Ayubi (19:12):
Yes.

Christina Hagger (19:13):
Did you have any idea at that point of how successful it was going to be?

Durkhanai Ayubi (19:19):
We laugh about this because I still don't think we have any idea of how successful it is because for us, it's just something we do. We do it every day and we do it with our whole heart. My mum, obviously for her, it's she loves it. She loves the cooking. It's something she's always been wonderful at and she loves to do. And she understands the significance of doing that here and sharing that with people. And for my dad, the same. He loves speaking to people and being there in front of house and sharing the food and his story. For the rest of us as well, it's just what we do. We love working with each other and contributing to something that feels special and feels like it's something we built together. So, yeah. I mean, every now and again, so for example, with the book that's coming up which ..

Christina Hagger (20:10):
Yes. We want to get to the book.

Durkhanai Ayubi (20:10):
Okay. Okay, Sure. Yeah. Every now and again, I kind of get these things where I step back and I go, 'Oh, okay. Yeah, we've come a really long way.' It kind of feels like a point of measure. But other than that, you're just steeped in it every day and you're trying to do your best.

Christina Hagger (20:25):
So you started in Torrensville?

Durkhanai Ayubi (20:27):
Yes.

Christina Hagger (20:28):
That restaurant is called?

Durkhanai Ayubi (20:30):
Parwana.

Christina Hagger (20:31):
Which means?

Durkhanai Ayubi (20:32):
Butterfly. Yeah.

Christina Hagger (20:34):
And from Torrensville, you've grown. Tell us where you've grown.

Durkhanai Ayubi (20:38):
Sure.

Christina Hagger (20:38):
Because I believe you're even right down south at Flinders Uni now.

Durkhanai Ayubi (20:40):
Yeah we are.

Christina Hagger (20:41):
So just give us a map of where you've grown.

Durkhanai Ayubi (20:44):
Yeah, sure. From Torrensville we-

Christina Hagger (20:46):
And you're still there?

Durkhanai Ayubi (20:46):
Yep. We're still in Torrensville. Yep. So we do dinner there and then my sisters and I decided... We'd made a trip to Afghanistan actually in 2012, and we saw the way food was shared there and it was really cool. Like it was kind of like the street food really captured us, right? Because it was shared in like these little pockets, these little spots. There were fluro lights and incandescent lights and there was just like piles of bread or piles of meat, whatever it was being sold, or piles of sweets.

Christina Hagger (21:16):
This wonderful sense of generosity-

Durkhanai Ayubi (21:18):
Yeah, absolutely.

Christina Hagger (21:19):
... and flavor and colour.

Durkhanai Ayubi (21:20):
And colour, yes, and ambience and everything. So we were like, 'That's a part of our food story, as well. That's part of Afghan food story.' It spoke to us as we'd grown up in Australia and for us, it was a way to share our experience that was like a little bit kind of edgier and faster. So now we're in town. We have a little lunch spot in Ebenezer Place. For us the tiles, the artwork, the lights, everything was very measured and am expression of what we absorbed while we were in Afghanistan, and we loved it. We loved seeing how ..

Christina Hagger (21:56):
Because you go into that little shop and it is an explosion of colour and light and brightness. It's wonderful.

Durkhanai Ayubi (22:02):
Thank you. And then from there we, we've got a spot in Bedford Park at Flinders Uni where we do the same sort of thing, just lunch for all the students there. My sister, Fatima, also has a sweet store at Plant 4 in Bowden. She's a terrific pastry chef and she makes delicious cakes and sweets. So we kind of spread out a bit.

Christina Hagger (22:27):
Then you're taking the spreading out to another dimension. You're also compiling a recipe book.

Durkhanai Ayubi (22:32):
Absolutely. The recipe book is really important for me and my family. It's important because it's an act of preservation of Afghan culture, these are quite old recipes and a lot of that kind of knowledge has been lost. So just in terms of, for the history of the country, which might otherwise be forgotten, it's a really kind of significant act for us to put it together in a book that has a lot of love and care and work has been put into it, from the photography to the writing, to the recipes. So it's really exciting that it'll all be coming together.

When the publisher asked us if we would write a book of Afghan recipes, the timing finally felt right. I think I was in the right spot to want to kind of take that on and to feel like I had the story in me to put together. I said, "Yes, sure. We'd love to, but we'd like for it to be half narrative." So half of it is narrative and half of it is recipe. The reason that I really would wanted half of it to be narrative is because I don't think you can understand Afghan food if you're just looking at it through the recipes or without the context of the beautiful and epic history of the country, and also the story of how we as a family made our way to Australia. It charts genealogically through my mother because they're her recipes, her story of how kind of these food came to be significant in her life, so how that happened.

Even before that it goes into the history of interculturalism of the silk road and what that means for the flavors of Afghan food and what comes through in the recipes. And it kind of charts our way to Australia.

In my way, in the way that I can through my lens of how I've experienced the world and how my life has unfolded, I've tried to kind of assess the significance of food based on what happens to you as a migrant. Like, it kind of becomes this nostalgic connection and a nostalgic memory, but at the same time, it's an act of sharing and contributing and giving in your new home, wherever you've landed. So it kind of explores the actual history of Afghanistan and its food as well as what the significance of food with respect to place.

Christina Hagger (25:07):
One question I haven't asked you is when your family arrived, Melbourne first, couple of years, then Adelaide,

Durkhanai Ayubi (25:15):
Yes.

Christina Hagger (25:17):
Was there any thought of moving on from Adelaide? What was it about Adelaide that made your family, and I understand you too would have gone along with the decision, but what was it that made your family decide and get a sense of this is going to be our place to put down new roots?

Durkhanai Ayubi (25:38):
Sure. Well, I'd like to say its something quite romantic, but it's not. When you're-

Christina Hagger (25:44):
Pragmatism?

Durkhanai Ayubi (25:44):
Yeah, absolutely. When you are new arrivals in a country, you just kind of try to make life easy. For my parents with a young family, we were all under the age of 10, my sisters and I, there were four of us then, for them, it was just Melbourne felt like a big place and it was hard to get around. And coming to Adelaide, it was much more manageable and it was a way for them to kind of feel, I suppose, safer and to be able to get around more easily and to not feel as overwhelmed, I suppose.

So when you're in that position as a migrant or a displaced person, you don't really have the capacity to really forecast too much into the future. That's not necessarily what's driving you. You're trying to look for a way to make life manageable and to make things work and make ends meet, and that's what my parents were doing. That's very much the, I think, a story that repeats itself with people that are displaced. You're just trying to deal with what sometimes feels like a crisis at the time, which is your whole world has just shifted massively and you have to make sense of all these new ways and these new things.

My parents did that as best as they could. They started learning English as soon as they could. They already had some kind of knowledge of English because they spoke it back home, but it's a different thing to be living in a English speaking country and then transportation, making their way around. So it was really just a decision around how do you make things work. When you're new, you don't really have a good grasp of the language. You've got young kids and you need to get them to school every day. So that's why we moved to Adelaide.

Christina Hagger (27:32):
Where was the point, or not a point, but what was the process by which you moved from that, in Adelaide, that led up to the start of that first restaurant in Torrensville?

Durkhanai Ayubi (27:43):
Sure. Absolutely. And I call that like a transfiguration, and I think that's what happened. Because what happened was, I think we were always lucky as children that my mum and dad really cared about us going through school and going wherever we needed to to complete our studies and to have a good job and then to kind of be aware and to be able to contribute to society. That was really important for my mum and dad. That wasn't necessarily something that just came with being in Australia. That is who they are. And that is actually who a lot of people are before life takes a turn and you have to leave everything because of war, right? So they were highly skilled themselves, and so they understood the importance of their children kind of going through and taking their education quite seriously and that kind of thing.

But I think more importantly than that, it was an attitude. My mother, there was just something about her being, I think, and it is one that was always calm even in the face of not having much, we didn't grow up with much, and who always created that sense of home even though we weren't necessarily in what she and her foremothers and forefathers before her knew to be home. So really, it was a sense of safety and a sense of hope that my parents built for us and with all the challenges that come with being in a new place. I think that that's what endured.

I think, that as we grew up, my sisters and I, family was really important because we had gone through a lot together and we evolved together and we brought one another along. So then, it was a transfiguration. When we could kind of contribute back and we were all older, we did it in a way that we were all a part of something together. So I suppose it wasn't a point more than it was an essence and an attitude and a belief in hope and a belief in staying true and not forgetting who you are no matter where in the world you are and acting on that and doing it with one another and bringing one another along. I think that kind of underpins why we opened the restaurant.

Christina Hagger (30:09):
Belief and hope, building the future together and understanding the past. Could you perhaps tell us how your journey back to Afghanistan contributed?

Durkhanai Ayubi (30:20):
It was a really important thing for us to have done, for my sisters and I, especially in hindsight because I felt all these things I wasn't expecting to feel. I felt a sense of connection, I didn't know I had. I felt a sense of sadness, I didn't know I would. I felt a sense of overwhelming questioning because there were lots of things, I suppose, about Afghanistan that even I had believed, I'm ashamed to admit. And that's the power of messaging. That's the power of narratives. That's power of media.

So I went to Afghanistan and I was expecting it to be quite desolate and dry. And what I saw was a warmth, a warmth of the people who live there who had very little, who as guests for... as us travelling through as guests in their home, wherever we'd stop with relatives or family or just people who lived there, they would offer you everything they had. It was really humbling to see that, to see how the kind of expression of humanity exists even in a place where humanity has been taken away or tried to be taken away through conflict and war and violence.

Though it was really, I suppose, a pivotal and defining moment for my story because it made me realize how much I need to understand that part of my life so much more. It was a beautiful green landscape. It was lush. There were parts of it that were just like a dream. You have the Hindu Kush mountains in the background and there were rolling green valleys in the foreground and fields of like grass and flowers and just little kids everywhere.

I saw that people live and the human spirit endures even in times of crisis and conflict. That was my take home message, that I had to connect more deeply with my own human spirit and kind of tie that into my own ancestry and my own story where I'd come from even more, just so that I could contribute more fully and meet my own potential more fully in the place that I now lived.

Christina Hagger (32:44):
At this point, can I ask, how has being in Adelaide contributed?

Durkhanai Ayubi (32:50):
I think, first and foremost, it's about being in a place of peace, and a place where there are no, kind of, physical obstacles to you learning and to you expressing who you are and to expressing an opinion, and that kind of thing. It's about being in a place where we could kind of... we had the capacity to learn, go to school, that kind of thing, and grow in peace and in safety.

But then really, I think, it comes back, again, to knowing who you are, who you are before that story of migration, knowing what your country was and what that part of the world was before the kind of histories of colonialism and violence and war, and to have the place to express that. For us, Adelaide through fate and chance happened to be the place. So yeah, Adelaide is special and meaningful for that. Chance and fate brought us here and we have tried our best to make the most of it and we always will.

Christina Hagger (34:00):
What advice, advice, learnt wisdom, call it what you like, if someone's listening, especially young migrants who might be listening and they're perhaps struggling and thinking, 'I've come here under these circumstances either of my choosing or totally not of my choosing, I am here in Adelaide.'

Durkhanai Ayubi (34:22):
Yes. Yes.

Christina Hagger (34:23):
'What can I do? What should I be doing? What should I be thinking?'

Durkhanai Ayubi (34:27):
Well, I suppose I can only answer that question based on how I've chosen to, kind of, make my way through the challenges. I think I would start by acknowledging that it is really challenging. Especially as a young person, it is really tough to feel as though you constantly have to figure out who you are and to either defend it or explain it. So I just want to start by acknowledging that. I think that's true for many young people, regardless of whether they're migrants or not.

I think from my perspective, and again this is probably relevant to everyone, I hope, it was so important not to forget who I am. I feel as though I made a direct effort to remember. I think that was an ease, a really big part of being able to live to your full potential. And remembering means that you acknowledge and you look in the eye of everything, good and bad, of your own kind of background and your own history and culture, and you don't feel ashamed of things that are kind of...

Because the truth is that today, especially for young people, being visibly different is really tough, especially for migrants and refugees who might have Muslim backgrounds or have brown or black skin. That's just the truth. The truth is that life today is harder, harder and more challenging for people who are visibly different.

What I would say is that things come in waves, and despite the immediacy of how terrible those things can make you feel or the vilification in the media around or the scapegoating of people who are migrants and refugees or the Islamophobia and racism that exists, I would say that now more than ever is a time to remember who you are and to be unapologetic for it, to wade through the parts of culture that don't serve you because it's true that there are parts of every culture that suppress what it is to be human. So to find, to dig deeper, to dig pass those layers and to find what it is to be you and find ways to authentically and legitimately express that with a sense of love and hope in doing that.

Christina Hagger (37:03):
Final thoughts?

Durkhanai Ayubi (37:05):
Well, I was just thinking about my own kind of cultural context and how I came from a culture that is quite Eastern and we landed in the West, right? Sometimes, those cultures don't mix together very well and there are kind of stigmas attached to both cultures, about what you choose to do and how you choose to behave and what traits you take on, and especially for women, right? I think that's true of all cultures.

So for me, one thing I learned that has served me is that defining who you are in those circumstances is an act of courage. I feel one thing I've learned is that you have to be courageous, otherwise you will just be stuck and you'll be stuck in the things that other people expect for you. You'll be stuck in a way that you are blocked from a deeper ability to express yourself as a person. So really defragging and decoding and kind of shedding the parts of culture that no longer serve you and that you don't need to hold on to was a really important part of my trajectory to honouring who I am and who I'd like to be.

Christina Hagger (38:17):
And who you definitely are and will continue to grow into be. So thank you.

Durkhanai Ayubi (38:21):
Thank you.

Voiceover (38:25):
We hope you enjoyed this episode of the Adelaide Living Podcast, which is brought to you by the City of Adelaide. Discover more stories about people, places, and projects having a meaningful impact on our city by subscribing to this podcast or visiting the Adelaide Living website at living.cityofadelaide.com.au

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Christina Hagger

Dr Christina Hagger combines her radio presenter, writing and researcher skills to help people tell, and share, their stories. She understands the power of voice and narrative to inform, build community, and influence change.

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