Keith Morrison - Uncovering cultural roots and growing roots in Polynesia
From the age of three, Keith Morrison grew up in the countryside of Alexandra, Central Otago and never really thought much about the place he was born, KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.
To be authentic to himself through his art, Keith decided to rediscover where he came from.
“The big lesson I learnt was I’ve got to recover the heritage of my cultural background. I found out my mother has a Jewish background and is African, but my father is Scottish.”
After discovering his cultural roots, Keith decided to focus on growing his own roots in soil, studying agriculture at Lincoln University.
Following his studies, Keith went to work at the University of South Pacific in Samoa where he met his now wife and fell in love with Samusu village.
Keith then returned to Selwyn to work at Lincoln University, buying a bach in Selwyn Huts close enough for him to bike to work, and for his two sons to attend Lincoln High School. Nowadays, Keith works as an academic from Selwyn Huts independently.
“Now I feel like our family home is in Samusu village in Samoa and we have our batch here in Selwyn. I like it because it’s the country and I’ve hardly ever lived in the city.”
Keith established a community garden in Selwyn Huts to mimic what he had back home in Samoa.
“We actually rely a lot on our garden, just like in Samoa. I tried to mimic what I found in Samoa, one person owned a garden with 50 different crops. At Selwyn Huts, I’ve put in lots of fruit trees and made vegetable garden beds for the whole community. I’ve got them all year round now, carrots, beetroot and silverbeet.”
Of all the crops Keith grows in his garden, his favourite dish to make hails from Samoa and is called Saka.
Keith’s Saka (fa'alifu fa'i) recipe
“That’s my favourite, I just feel like it’s really healthy, just full of roughage, the best sort of carbohydrate.
The first time I had saka was sort of like the first time I had a hangi after collecting all the food ourselves, a strong feeling of feeling connected to the land, nature, the culture and the people, all that joined together. It was all linked in with falling in love with Samoa, but linking it back to my journey from KwaZulu-Natal to Aotearoa and Samoa and now living in both places, it is all part of settling into being in Polynesia and I see Selwyn as a part of Polynesia, so I feel like it’s a big family.”
- 6 whole green bananas (fa'i) or plantain
- Chunks of 2 scraped taro (talo)
- Cassava (manioka)
- Bread fruit when in season
- 2 large whole onions
- 2 coconuts or 2 cans of coconut cream
Boil either six whole green bananas or plantain, or chunks of two scraped taro as quarters. Drain and leave to cool to a warm temperature.
Cut two large whole onions as layers of round rings and add with a teaspoon of salt to approximately one litre of coconut cream (preferably through scrapping mature coconuts and wringing through a cloth, but otherwise from two tins) to cook in a pot on the stove. Heat till nearly simmering and then add in the cooked bananas, plantain, bread fruit, cassava or taro. Mix around to cover and submerge as much as possible the bananas, plantain or taro. Then leave to cool to a warm temperature.
In Samusu village, the umu, which is an above ground oven, made of hot stones, is another way of cooking these ingredients.
If done with the umu, you wrap all ingredients in taro leaves with some salt and sometimes onion and coconut cream, and it’s cooked so it comes out a little bit differently, and then you eat it with the roasted taro.