How often do we pay tribute to the immigrant and refugee women who came to Australia in the mass migration of the post-war period? These women – for many of us, our mothers or our grandmothers – have left such a clear imprint on our minds and hearts, and more broadly on Australian cultural and economic development, that we would struggle to imagine ourselves as a country without acknowledging their role in making us who we are today.
Paul Capsis, a wonderful performer of Greek-Maltese-Australian background, has created a heart-warming and entertaining tribute to his Maltese grandmother through Angela’s Kitchen, a one-man show currently playing around Australia. In a series of sketches, Capsis brings his grandmother’s strength, resilience and leadership to life.
Angela migrated to Australia in 1948, bringing five small children, one suitcase and countless experiences of war, poverty and hardship. Her story is a compelling one and is shared by many thousands of immigrant and refugee women who have made (and continue to make) the difficult and often constrained choice to make the move to Australia. Like Angela, immigrant and refugee women who came to Australia in the post-war period rarely had access to formal education, either in their countries of origin, or in Australia, and worked in poorly-paid blue-collar jobs across a range of industries such as manufacturing, cleaning, and support services.
In a recent interview, Capsis has said that he hears his grandmother’s voice while performing her story. He added that “She likes that I am telling the stories, but doesn’t know why people would be interested.” But sitting in the audience, it’s difficult to imagine why people wouldn’t. Voices like Angela’s are rarely given such a public forum, but they offer us an essential insight into the courage, humour, and community of Australia’s migrant women.