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Community Creativity Interviews

Sasha Sarago is the Founder of Australia’s First Indigenous and Ethnic Women’s Lifestyle Magazine

“My father is African-American and Spanish. My mum’s Aboriginal, Malay and Mauritian. My father was in the marines and met my mum in Perth. It was a whirlwind love affair. At the age of three, we moved over to the States and lived there till I was nine. It was an interesting experience, getting to know my African-American culture, but I felt very insecure, because over in America, a lot of people said, ‘You’re mixed,’ because I have mixed ancestry. I didn’t understand what that meant. Continue Reading

Community Interviews

Amy Lawrie Is a Penguin Keeper

“I did an honours degree on the little penguin – the smallest species of penguin that exists. There’s a colony at The Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road, and I did my research down there. It hadn’t been studied in over 20 years, so I worked out their population size and breeding success, and that’s when I really fell in love with penguins. Continue Reading

Community Interviews

Erin O’Callaghan believes in the circle of (soil) life

Former physiotherapist Erin O’Callaghan always knew that she wanted to grow veggies. “I just wanted to grow veggies for my local community,” she says. Although she’d always kept veggie patches and felt the constant “itch to be outside a bit more”, it was only when she went back home to to care for grandmother that she decided to pursue farming full-time. Continue Reading

Community Interviews

Curls, Curls, Curls

Love your hair, love yourself. This is the mantra that underpins the Curly Hair and Natural Hair Movements – a global community of women (and men) who are redefining standards in beauty by embracing their natural curls. At the forefront of the movement’s Australian faction is Neel Morley, whose Melbourne Salon, Neel Loves Curls, is one of the few specialist curly hairdressers in the country.

“This is a curly hair sanctuary,” he says, as he gently performs his trademark twisting and clipping technique to his client’s hair. “Curly hair isn’t taught in Australia. It’s very sad. And a lot of curly-haired people go to salons feeling like second-class citizens.”

I am one of them. I have naturally curly hair. Effie hair. A wog fro. Throughout my childhood, people used to come up and play with my long, curly hair, fondling it, making amused noises and walking away. It was as though there were a curious-looking dog attached to my head – like a mythological beast perhaps, like a minotaur, only cuter – and people took some small pleasure in coming over to have a play. It was for me as it is for anybody who finds themselves in the position of being petted by the general public: disgusting.

And so, like many of Neel’s clients, when the instruments of straightening became available to me, I embarked upon a lifetime of ironing my natural curls into oblivion, aspiring to conform to something more normal, more safe. I have roughly spent two hours per week straightening my hair for 12 years. That’s 5000 hours of my life (to date) I have dedicated to resembling somebody else’s idea of beautiful – and basically wasting my time.

Although the Natural Hair Movement has existed since the mid-1990s, it has been more recently that the community, also known as #TeamNatural, and their ethos of self-love and self-acceptance has found a wider audience. “A lot of women have just destroyed their hair and are just trying to bring it back to life,” Neel says. “I get people who say, ‘But I need to straighten my hair, Neel. I have a corporate job, I need to look smart.’ I always say, ‘If you wear your curls properly and you hydrate them, then they’ll look amazing.”

Neel sees himself as not only a curly hair educator (I left his sunny, Liberace-inspired mini hair palace with instructions to get hold of and study Curly Girl: The Handbook, a bible which I was assured would – and has – changed my life), but as a best friend to his clients who comes from across the country to seek out his services. “Channel Minnie Driver,” he says. “Channel Shakira. Some people haven’t seen their natural curly hair not frizzy, or they haven’t seen how their hair can sit really beautifully, because sadly there’s not a lot of hairdressers like me, doing what I’m doing.”

Neel recommends the Curly Girl method: no shampoo, no sulphates and no parabens. “The best things for curly hair are coconut oil and lavender oil,” Neel says. “Get a water spray bottle, pop some lavender oil in it and spritz it through your hair on day two or day three. It’ll refresh the curls.” Neel advises to seek out recipes from the Curly Girl bible, now available in all libraries across Melbourne’s northern suburbs, upon Neel’s personal insistence. “I’m a different realm,” he says, speaking to his level of curl obsession. “I spend 50 hours a week looking at curly hair and I don’t ever let go. It’s really hard.”

Image: Hilary Walker


This article first appeared in frankie magazine issue 62 (Nov/Dec 2014).

Community

Geology Student Stefan Cook Built His Own Tiny House

“We had earthquakes in Christchurch a few years ago, and we’re going through the whole rebuild stage at the moment. In some suburbs, the houses have been abandoned. It’s been classed as what we know as ‘red zone’, which basically means the government has purchased that land off the owners and the houses have become the property of the insurance companies. Some of those houses are getting re-located and others are getting completely recycled or demolished.

“My flatmate and I were talking about all the abandoned materials around Christchurch and the thought came into my mind of building something. But it was like, ‘What would you build and where would you put it?’ About six months later, we came across a YouTube video of a kid in America who was building a tiny house.

“A tiny house is a small, self-built, portable house, which you can move around by yourself. They’re predominantly made by people who want to create a space suitable for their lifestyle. And obviously it’s got the benefits of being a lot more eco-friendly and resilient to natural hazards.

“A lot of tiny houses are built from wood with a standard wooden house frame. I decided to go with a steel frame. Longevity is what it came down to. I started with a very rough pencilled floor plan – everything after that just evolved through going around these salvage yards and seeing what they had. I needed a bathroom shower tray, for example, and ended up going out to a house that was being demolished and helping the guys pull it out. In that case, I paid a box of beer and brought it back and installed it that night.

“The house is only 20 square metres, about as much space as a large sailing boat. Other people would look at me as a minimalist, but I’ve got a tonne of storage in this place. And having a little bit of a decking makes the tiny house feel even bigger. The interior furniture is quite simplistic, so it can quite easily be moved around. Even the staircase to the loft could be moved to the other side. I like the fact that it looks different to other tiny houses. It’s just me. On the inside, it’s a little bit industrial. It’s got some rough edges, but that’s me as well.

“I don’t come from a building background. I didn’t understand how windows got lined up, how you put them in or how to keep out water. But a friend’s father had built his house and once I tapped into his knowledge, I was then able to just go out and go on with the project. Knowledge is around. Once you find it and tap into it, you can stand back and say, ‘Shit, I’ve just done that and I didn’t know how I was going to do that a month ago.’

“When I started building the tiny house, I didn’t know where I was going to park it. Originally, I was thinking I wanted to be a two-minute bike ride to uni. But then I realised that would mean I’d be right in the middle of suburbia. And that doesn’t really suit my lifestyle or the tiny house. So I’ve ended up on a farmlet on the outskirts of town.

“The construction took around 12 weeks and ended up costing around 25 grand. Where I’m located, the price of housing is going up, especially after our earthquakes. You look at what a couple pays in rent in Auckland. They’d pay for a tiny house in maybe a year. If you’ve got a lot of outgoings and overheads, then you have work a lot more, doing things that you don’t really want to be doing. If you’re able to be a bit more financially free, then you’re able to focus your time and energy into your own life.

“The items I had to give up were things that I hadn’t used in years. Things that were sitting in the bottom of a closet or the back of the garage. It became a case of asking, ‘Well, if I haven’t used it in the last three years, am I going to use it in the next year?’ And if no, get rid of it. Either sell it or give it away. It’s almost a release.

“What I like about tiny houses is that you build it to suit your lifestyle. It’s not about buying a caravan or a motorhome, which is mass produced and doesn’t necessarily suit the space that you live in or your usage of electricity, gas and water. I’m running mine off solar and gas. Solar will always be in this tiny house, but gas I may change over to a wood burner or pot belly in the future.

“You really are a lot more conscious of your usage, because when the gas bottle runs out, you run out. I mean, sure, where I am at the moment, it’s a half-hour drive to go get some more, but you’re trying to save every last drop. You don’t just flick on the gas bottle for the sake of it. Before I lived here, if I left a light on for an extra half an hour, I didn’t really think about it. But here, if I’m not using the light in the bathroom, I turn it off straight away. I mean, when I’m brushing my teeth, do I actually need the light on? Because I know where my teeth are.

“One of the things that you really need is water. Sure, you can say that you’re going to catch it off your roof, which is great, so long as you’ve got a roof big enough and you’ve got the rainfall. Christchurch is quite a dry area and my roof isn’t big enough, so on that side of things, I’m limited. But if I go and park on the other side of the South Island, which is very wet, straight away I could be living off caught water.

“The most people I’ve fed in the house so far has been three. And it was nachos. One of the tiny house specials. In the flat I lived in before here, I relied a lot on frozen foods. I do have a freezer here, but it’s more of an ice-box size. Enough to keep some frozen peas and some ice cubes. But relying on frozen foods has completely gone out.

“When I was living with flatmates, people would come over and say, ‘Right, let’s go to the pub.’ Now, I’m relying a lot more on the phone and text messages. But on the plus side, I’ve got my space and I do what I want, when I want.

“You’ve just got freedom. And you’re a lot more in touch with the outdoors. The mountain bike’s sitting there looking at me, so I’ll go for a mountain bike. Recently, some of the paddocks where I’m located were used for stock while they were giving birth. I hadn’t actually seen a cow giving birth before and I witnessed that from my window. I sent a text to the lady who owned the stock and said, ‘Oh, yeah, that brown cow just gave birth.’ And she was like, ‘Sweet, thanks.’

“There are people who want to build tiny houses, see mine and say, ‘This is really cool, but I don’t think I can make this.’ I say, ‘Well, can you measure two distances, put that onto a bit of wood and cut that at the same length? And then can you get that bit of wood, put it on the wall and drill it in there?’ Because that’s pretty much 90 per cent of it. It’s not complex maths, by any means.

“If you want to build a tiny house, just go and build it. You’ll find a place. And if it’s not the right place in the short term, you’ll find something else in the longer term. Once word gets out, you’ll be surprised at the contacts that start jumping out of the woodwork. It’s all part of the process and the journey. It’s a fun journey.

Image: Johanna MacDonald


This article first appeared in frankie magazine issue 65 (May/June 2015).