Eating with Artists: Abdul-Rahman Abdullah
The talented Abdullah family has Australia fairly well anchored from coast to coast: with youngest brother Abdul on the East coast, Abdul- Rahman is holding his side down firmly in Western Australia, while reaching audiences everywhere. Living on a bucolic cattle farm with artist/curator wife Anna and their two beautiful little girls Aziza and Althea, life might look idyllic, but it takes two adults with precision co-parenting to make this all work.
A few messages and calls pass between the affable Abdul-Rahman and me while he juggles work, kids and chore schedules with Anna. I'm grateful he's making the time to talk with me.
'Always happy to chat about food, Tina', he laughs.
Leading up to our appointed chat time, Abdul-Rahman sends me a slew of photos of the food the family is preparing and eating.
Tina: What's for dinner on a Sunday night?
Abdul-Rahman: Anna is pregnant with our number three, and can't eat anything spicy, so it is all 'white food' ! I'll have to sneakily have some curry on the side, I won't last until September (when she's due) without some spicy food.
Prime T-bone steaks from the farm of course and lots of grilled veggies, with a mash of potato, cauliflower and pumpkin.
Tina: So where are you located, exactly?
A-R: We are on a three thousand acre cattle farm called Kalga, about forty minutes as the crow flies from Perth, an area called Mardella. Our house is about half a km up the road from Anna's family home on the property, really where she grew up. We moved here in 2016, and we built a studio- its pretty perfect.
Tina: What did you eat growing up?
A-R: Mum is Malay and moved here in the seventies, and dad is white Australian, so the family grew up eating lots of Malay curries,fried fish, rice, rendang, (rice with everything). Mum is an amazing cook.
Tina: Tell me about more about your family?
A-R: There is mum and dad and four of us kids. I was born in the foyer of Port Kembla District Hospital a few hours after Elvis Presley died! Abdul you know - he's the baby in the family, nine years younger than me, and I'm much closer in age to our two elder siblings. We all came to art through our eldest brother actually, Abdul Karim, who went to art school and got a degree -he's an amazing painter actually, but has gone down a different successful career path.
We didn't have a tv growing up, so we all drew and made stuff.
Mum is a pottery teacher, and a botanical painter. My parents were always behind their kids' creativity; mum always made things so we kind of naturally did too.
I was making and drawing from a young age, not even aware what art was. I guess you could say art is at the core of my identity.
Tina: Okay, date night. What's the go-to for you and Anna?
A-R: Always arts stuff, an exhibition opening, and then get dinner. We're not fancy, my favourite is roast duck, can't go past Vic Park's Good Fortune roast duck with rice, washed down with ice coffees. Absolute favourite. Plus it's quick! We're always in a rush to pick up the kids afterwards....
Tina: What's an emergency go-to quick meal?
A-R: Mi Goreng two minute noodles! The kids call it Noo Noo.But I always add a lot to it. Prawns, fishballs, mushrooms, zucchini and mushrooms, bok choy and beans. And an egg for each person.
It is a process with the kids: separate their portions out, pop them in the freezer to cool down, let the 'freezer fairies' do their magic to get the hot noodles to room temperature! Yeah, there's a whole song about it- the freezer fairies doing their fridge farts....haha!
Tina: What's your secret naughty food indulgence?
A-R: ME? Oh sausage rolls, probably! And iced coffee! Oh it's so bad, I'm sure I could get obese drinking iced coffee... Ah, the petrol station snacks too; it's just too easy!
Tina: Can you tell me about your work?
A-R: I have a solo show that opened last week at John Curtin Gallery, titled 'Everything Is True'. It is a dream gig, to have spaces which are flexible and expansive, to have serious attention focussed on the themes of my work, as well as the installation.
Tina: Finally Abdul-Rahman, is there a favourite recipe you can share with us?
A-R: My favourite Malay thing to cook, is jemput jemput- deep fried banana dumplings. I asked mum what jemput jemput meant, and she said it was actually the action of dropping the batter into the oil. Anyway, it's very easy and super delicious, good for breakfast or afternoon tea:
Abdul-Rahman's Jemput Jemput
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup self raising flour
2 mashed old bananas
Mash well until combined, no liquid needed.
Deep fry till golden brown, drain on paper.
Abdul-Rahman Abdullah is represented by:
Cathedral Square 1/565 Hay Street,
Perth, Western Australia
Wed - Fri 11 - 5, Sat 12 - 4
Images courtesy of:
Good Fortune Roast Duck