Discover BrisAsia Festival - Connection through culture
Returning in February 2022 for its 10th year, BrisAsia Festival brings together a program that celebrates a dynamic fusion of Asian art, culture and cuisine across more than 50 events. The program will feature live performances by internationally acclaimed artists, outdoor festivities and intimate cultural encounters across traditional and contemporary art forms.
The theme for this year is 'connection through culture' and is a call to action to reach out to others, participate and be part of Brisbane's evolving cultural story.
Over three weeks from 1-20 February, audiences can experience the transformative power of live performance, learn and grow through immersive workshops and travel the length and breadth of Asia across the incredibly packed festival program that has something for everyone.
Fresh festival experiences for 2022 include the hip hop/luxury car/food truck event Southside by Night, the first-ever dedicated tea festival The Laneway Tea Festival, digital storytelling initiative Mother's Table, a special Valentine's Day event called BrisAsia Love Songs, new music and healing initiative Satsang - Sacred Gathering and BrisAsia Fashion showcasing some of the finest Asian designers.
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For events bookings, click on the event that you are interested in and go to the 'bookings' section in the detailed event information.
BrisAsia Festival presents Mother's Table.
Mother’s Table is a mini-documentary series produced for the BrisAsia Festival featuring three local restaurant owners: Vietnamese suburban icon Maggie Nguyen, master of homestyle Indonesian cuisine Mie Mie Wing Kee, and ramen pioneer Taro Akimoto. Learn about the families and stories behind the restaurants and dishes that have shaped Brisbane’s culinary landscape!
Written and directed by Lark Lee and produced by Sounds Across Oceans for Brisbane City Council’s BrisAsia Festival 2022 in partnership with Cafe O-Mai, Mamaku Street Food and Taro’s Ramen.
Ramen-obsessed Taro Akimoto tells the story of opening his restaurant Taro’s Ramen, and learning that it would take more than just passion for food to run the business and become one of the pioneers of specialty ramen in Brisbane, Australia.
Written and directed by Lark Lee and produced by Sounds Across Oceans for Brisbane City Council’s BrisAsia Festival 2022 in partnership with Taro’s Ramen.
Taro Akimoto: Welcome to Taro's Ramen. My name is Taro Akimoto and this is my story.
Taro: We specialise in ramen, which is Japanese soup noodles. We run four shops. One of the favourite ramens that I was into is called tonkotsu ramen. This is probably the most famous ramen in the world, but it's actually originally from the Kyushu island.
Taro: When I was about to graduate, my grandpa offered to give me his car, a beautiful opportunity for me to travel, and to taste all the different kinds of tonkotsu ramens that’s around in the island. All the different ramen shops have their own story. Naturally, I just wanted to remember all the different stories that these ramen shops had, so I started my own little ramen notebook and I kept a log of all the different bowls I ate. I spent two weeks going around prefectures of Kyushu, and I probably had thirty entries in my ramen journal. I probably ate ramen every lunch and every dinner. And if there was another shop that interested me, I would go to maybe one more shop, or two shops for dinner. Easy for a ramen lover!
Taro: My mum has a huge influence on me and my love for food. She was definitely not just cooking out of necessity. I mean, who has a smoker on their balcony of our small Tokyo apartment, and smoking away on the balcony where other people are drying their clothes and stuff? So I think she was a pretty big nuisance to the neighbours!
Taro: Moshi moshi, okaasan [Hello, mum]
Tamiko Akimoto: [Konichiwa! [Hello there!]
Taro: She's just crazy, curious, passionate about food. And it just transpired to me and... my dad says, “you guys are like twins”, comparing my mum and me.
Taro: Today I'm having my friend Matt come over for dinner and I'm going to be cooking harakomeshi. Your signature dish, I guess. Yeah, so salmon... I like the skin on - the skin on is much better, right?
Tamiko: When you cook it? Yeah.
Taro: When I'm excited with a new creation or when I find something that's delicious, and when I can't share it with her, I really feel the physical distance.
Taro: The focus, when I started this business, was a bit more humble, just a way to be able to find a place in Brisbane. I love the city and I wanted to make a spot for myself. A couple of weeks leading up to the opening, I had sleepless nights, working 18 hours straight, with three hours' sleep for three weeks in a row, and I ended up losing 10 kilos leading up to the opening. And my wife got sick and she had to be hospitalised. It's not just a grand plan working smoothly. It's actually a lot of hard work. I was really confident about the product. I was proud of what I created, but unfortunately, the customers didn't come in. We were just simply losing money and working away on my working capital, and I was almost about to quit. It changed with one positive review; a food writer came into our restaurant. I didn't know that he came in, but he wrote an article on one of those free papers. Since then, customers started coming in and I was saved.
Taro: Hey, Matt!
Matt Hsu: Hey, Taro!
Taro: Thanks for coming!
Matt: Happy to be here.
Matt: This is amazing!
Taro: This is my mum's recipe. This is harakomeshi.
Matt: That's so good!
Matt: In the month before I submitted my PhD, I came to your restaurant Monday to Friday, every day.
Taro: Oh, is that when I told you to stop ramen?
Taro: You know, a balanced diet, as much as I want you to spend money at my establishment, your long life is more important. So I got concerned, you know?
Matt: Yeah, I really appreciate that.
Taro: The current plan is to maintain the status quo, perhaps go towards reducing the number of shops. I'll put more energy and passion into the restaurants so that I can get creative. My childhood dream was to be an entrepreneur, a CEO of an IT company or something like that. So I wanted to be rich. Ramen is not really big money in Japan. The shops that I was interested in, at least, were the shops that were run by like one old man, who's been perfecting his craft for his entire lifetime. I never thought that that would be the way that I wanted to go, but it could actually be the way that I'm heading, yes.
Tamiko: When you first went into business, then I was worried. I think your passion was so big, that helped you. Taro, I'm so proud of you.
Taro: Thank you.
Mamaku Street Food
Mie Mie Wing Kee, an Indonesian immigrant who always puts her family first, recounts her food business journey and how she came to open Mamaku Street Food, a family-run restaurant in the Brisbane suburbs that pays tribute to mothers and home-style cooking.
Written and directed by Lark Lee and produced by Sounds Across Oceans for Brisbane City Council’s BrisAsia Festival 2022 in partnership with Mamaku Street Food.
Mie Mie Wing Kee: Welcome to Mamaku Street Food.
Angela Carss: My name is Angela.
Mie Mie: My name is Mie Mie Wing Kee.
Mie Mie and Angela: And this is our story.
Angela: Mamaku itself means "my mother" and street food is an honour back to where mum and my grandmother come from, which is Jakarta, Indonesia. And in Indonesia, they actually have food stall peddlers and they actually carry a cart. It would ring a bell and it will be early in the morning. And it might say something like soto mie or sate ayam, and you would run down with your money and come and get whatever it is you want to get.
Mie Mie: This is pork belly here. We're going to make some caramelised pork. I never put quantity on my recipes, so I'm just going to go approximately. Cook the sugar first.
Angela: When I was five or six, I would sit under our dining room table and I'd play, like it was my cubby house. Auntie Henny, Auntie Petrisia, yourself, Popo, my grandmother, all around the table, and all of you would be yammering on in Indonesian, which at that time I didn't understand. I know they're doing something yummy because I can smell it. But a lot of laughter and talking and cooking.
Mie Mie: She just wants to do it herself. She doesn't trust me. (laughs)
Angela: We would go to barbecues; and it's a potluck barbecue so everyone has to bring one dish. One fried noodle dish was the planting of the seed, because Dan and Annette used to say, “Oh my gosh, Mie Mie your noodles are so good you need to open a restaurant!” And they said it every single week.
Mie Mie: And then from then, I bought a business in one of the eateries. I just went in without knowing how to do anything.
Angela: Every day, I would go to school, come back from school, help mum and dad.
Mie Mie: So then we set up another restaurant. This is in Darwin. Two restaurants, we set them up. It's learning. You know how you learn about something? You fail and you do it again.
Mie Mie: So the moment when she said that I'm not coming back and I'm going to move to Brisbane, because you were in university, then I go, “that's it”. Pack up and go. No consideration. Because I couldn't live apart from her.
Mie Mie: In the beginning, when we set this one up, we were just so busy, I think, because of you, because you actually...
Angela: I set up the website.
Mie Mie: She set up the website... social media...
Angela: I set up the name and the story that goes with the name. Everyone was getting in contact with us.
Mie Mie: The newspaper, they came in...
Angela: "Can we come and take photos?"
Mie Mie: It went into The Courier-Mail.
Mie Mie: (greeting her son Darren and his partner) Oh hey, how are you?
Darren: How are you doing?
Mie Mie: First 18 months, I think my son just had an overwhelming- “this is not for him”. So we sublet this place to someone else and it didn't do well. It left us behind with a lot of debt. So we ended up taking it over again two years ago.
(Lively greetings and conversation)
Mie Mie: I have my mum every second day coming in here and chop, chop, chop. My sister and her husband, and my husband. You sometimes come and then your son comes.
Mie Mie: So this is Noah cooking the noodles. Noah comes on the weekends—
Angela: “Four generations”
Mie Mie: ...to work in here. I'm just so grateful that I have family and then to have this existed.
Mie Mie: What does it taste like?
Noah Carss: Good.
Mie Mie: Good!
Mie Mie: The reason why I'm coming here is more because of my mum. When I was 10, I didn't have my dad around me anymore. I didn't want her to suffer. So at 20, “no matter what”, I said, you know, I came to Australia, just really to bring her here.
Julia Sigar: Sekarang aku sudah senang. Anak-anak udah gedhe, cucu udah gedhe.
Angela: She said “when mum was younger, she was a brat. But she's much better now”.
Julia: Ada anak semua, cucu senang, saya bahagia.
Angela: All of her children, all of her grandchildren, all love her, so she's happy.
Julia: Kan dah bagus tuh, sekarang Popo.
Angela: She feels like it's the best time of her life.
Angela: She's very happy.
Angela: Oh my gosh, it’s so good!
Angela: Just listening to you is making me upset. Ever since I was 15, she's had a business and she's always thought that she's not very good at running a business, and if she could only see herself through my eyes, she would just see something completely different to how she describes herself.
Mie Mie: But it was a good story. Look at us. I have you! I have three beautiful kids out of the whole creation.
(Lively conversation, laughter)
The daughter of a Vietnamese refugee who came to Australia in the 80s, Maggie Nguyen talks about the dream she had of opening a quaint café that went against her mother’s expectations, and how they eventually came to open Brisbane brunch institution Cafe O-Mai together.
Written and directed by Lark Lee and produced by Sounds Across Oceans for Brisbane City Council’s BrisAsia Festival 2022 in partnership with Cafe O-Mai.
Maggie Nguyen: Welcome to Cafe O-Mai. My name is Maggie Nguyen, and this is my story.
Maggie: Cafe O-Mai is a family-owned restaurant in Annerley, south of Brisbane. We established in 2012 with my mum, Kim Nguyen, and myself. We serve traditional Vietnamese food that's cooked from the heart.
Maggie: One of the earliest memories that I have of my mum is making broth. Every time I come home from school I can smell the chicken soup permeate through the house. It was just very comforting. And that's when I know, yes, I'm home. As a child, I used to just follow her around in the kitchen, helping her prep, and all the mundane tasks... Not many people like it, but I gravitate to those tasks because this is the starting point to the endpoint.
Maggie: So today we're going to have lunch together, my mum, Noah and I, in the restaurant. A dish that I grew up with, it's called bò quanh lửa hồng, which means “beef surrounded by flames”.
Maggie: See, there's fire around it.
Noah Patmore: Blue fire!
Maggie: When I think about my mum's journey to Australia, sometimes I can't even comprehend the whole story. My mum was a Vietnamese refugee. In 1982, my uncles built a boat. My mum was three months pregnant with me when she was boarding that little boat.
Kim Nguyen: Five days and nights in the boat. Luckily, we didn't see any pirates.
Maggie: There's been a lot of stories about other boats that don't ever reach land.
Kim: We had a little storm and not enough food, not enough water and we were very scared. And nobody helped us. I sat in the boat five days and nights. I didn't walk for five days so I couldn't walk when I got onto land.
Maggie: Many times when you told me that story, you said that you were crying with joy because you finally got onto land.
Kim: I will always remember and I always thank Australia to have accepted us, and we have a good life here and a very good future for our children.
Maggie: When I finished high school, I really didn't know what I wanted to do, and being a very obedient Asian child, I was expected to complete a degree and I chose chiropractic. While I was practicing chiropractic, I was actually dreaming of my corner quaint café. I even imagined the soundtrack of what my customers will be listening to—Nina Simone. A lot of the times when I went out to eat, I was dreaming of my café. My mum, I think, slowly warmed up to the idea of me opening a restaurant. At 27, I finished up chiropractic, and then I opened Red Lotus in the Valley with my brother.
Maggie: So the first night that I opened Red Lotus, at the end of that service, I cried my eyes out. People weren't getting any of their food in time, and my friend had to come in to help with the bar, and the bar didn't have any lights. And it was just a disaster. But from that night, I didn't give up. I persevered. After I left Red Lotus, I decided I wanted to give it another go. My mum, she was the main supporter financially for my shop to exist.
Kim: She needs me; me and her, for us it is very easy to work together.
Maggie: So the ambience that I wanted to create is the feeling of being welcomed. You don't have to fit in. One of my customers, who came in probably a few times a week, has a bowl of pho on her own. In that whole year, she was going through something very personal with mental health, and she said to me that the space that I created, and the bowl of pho that she had... saved her. I think a lot of times when my customers come in, I actually don't really realise how much I've made an impact on their life. And sometimes I have to slow down and stop and look at my restaurant and realise, this is a very beautiful thing that I've created with my mum.
The BrisAsia Residency operates alongside the core public program. It is designed to increase and diversify participation in the festival through educational initiatives that offer in-depth, cross-cultural collaboration learning and development opportunities for artists and performers.
To get involved in future creative development opportunities in BrisAsia Festival, email our Creative Communities team.
BrisAsia Social Impact Residency
BrisAsia Social Impact Residency
This new social impact initiative is designed to offer diverse, accessible arts engagement with a broad cross-section of the community. For BrisAsia Festival 2022, the residency will see JADE New World Collective perform and jam with children from the Narbethong Special School and surrounding community.
BrisAsia LIVE Residency
BrisAsia LIVE Residency
The theme for this year's creative residency, 'hypnotica' will explore an eclectic range of improvisational processes; blending traditional instruments with digital sound and live performance movement. The residency, based at the iconic Brisbane Powerhouse, draws inspiration from the sounds and rhythms of traditional Sudanese music of West Java, Indonesia. Featuring traditional Indonesian musician Efiq Zulfiqar, experimental percussionist Yvette Agapow, circus artist/physical performer Mayu Muto, violinist Flora Wong and guitarist/composer Dr Anthony Garcia, the creative residency program will invite young and emerging artists to apply for a new emerging artist fellowing designed to support the development of skills in improvisation, intercultural collaboration and live performance.
BrisAsia emerging artists program
BrisAsia emerging artists program
This program looks to reach out to the community, discover new talent and showcase the next generation of artists and creatives. Through a series of community-wide expressions of interest, new artists can apply at various opportunities throughout the year to participate in our live music programs, BrisAsia Beats and Rare Voices. Through these programs, artists will perform alongside respected industry professional artists, receive mentorship and guidance in performance, and networking opportunities.
To get involved in one of this year's BrisAsia Festival creative development opportunities, complete an online expression of interest form for the event you're interested in:
Sounds Across Oceans (SAO) is a not-for-profit arts organisation established in 2015 to redress educational inequities, promote diversity and build bridges between cultures and communities. The organisation has established a unique creative philosophy inspired by both ancient and contemporary modes of practice and generating a holistic approach to arts engagement that has become synonymous with SAO programs, events and festivals. At the heart of the SAO approach is the understanding that all people have a creative soul, and this should be nurtured to support a full, flourishing life. Informed by research into intercultural and interdisciplinary collaboration, arts health and wellbeing and education, SAO has developed a consultative ethos of collaboration and partnership development, working closely with other arts organisations, schools and universities, business and government to design and deliver creative experiences that uplift, inspire and connect people of all ages, backgrounds and cultures.
The SAO team for BrisAsia 2022 includes independent lead producers Gemma Truong Utopia Entertainment, Flora Wong and program producers Minh Nguyen AKA Chong Ali, Liz Golding & Shokk Events.
SBS is the official media partner of BrisAsia Festival 2022.
For more information about BrisAsia Festival, email Council's Creative Communities team.