“I have been cooking for as long as I have known myself,” Senait Gemeda says.
You may know her as the smiling face behind the Ethiopian food stall at the Old Bus Depot Markets.
Coming to Australia from her native Ethiopia in 2000, Senait had big pans to fill when she took over the stall from veteran Old Bus Depot Markets stallholder Fekerte in 2019.
Like her predecessor who had been introducing Canberrans to Ethiopian cuisine for a quarter of a century, Senait has been a fixture at the markets since, delighting customers time and again with full-favoured delights from the rugged Horn of Africa.
“When I cook for people, when I see them tasting and enjoying and appreciating my food, I feel happy,” she says.
“I want to keep helping Canberrans discover the true taste of Ethiopian cuisine.”
Senait, who learned to cook primarily from her mother and grandmother, says she started stepping into the kitchen regularly from the age of about six.
Her stall offers everything from key wat – Ethiopia’s signature spicy beef stew – to vegan options, but she advises newcomers to consider the stall’s “taste of all dishes”, which is precisely what it sounds like.
Arranged on an injera (a spongy crepe-like Ethiopian flatbread) customers can sample an array of key wat, chicken coconut curry, curried vegetables, lentils and legumes and a samosa of their choice. It embodies the ethos behind Ethiopian food – big flavours, sharing and generosity.
It is just one of the many options at the Old Bus Depot Market’s Multicultural Sundays, which take place on the first Sunday of each month.
Old Bus Depot Markets manager Richard Vagi said this is one of three themes on rotation at the markets.
“Food is, unsurprisingly, a major drawcard of Multicultural Sundays – but it’s certainly not the only one.”
Stallholders showcase various handcrafted products from around the world, transforming the market into Canberra’s grand bazaar.
While many vendors are permanent fixtures regardless of the theme, customers will notice a distinct shift in focus at Designer Sundays, held every third Sunday of each month.
Here, stallholders showcase jewellery, fashion, accessories, homewares and artworks from Australian designers, makers and artists.
Richard says on Designer Sundays customers can expect to find everything from locally handcrafted wardrobe staples to unique statement pieces and everything in between.
“Coming into the colder months, market-goers will start to see warm woollies. Much of it will be one-off and handcrafted from local producers and designers,” he says.
The fourth Sunday of each month is Collectible Sunday – a curated gallery where sharp eyes may find hidden gems among the collectible furniture, toys, boxes of records, films and books for your rummaging pleasure and even farming equipment.
Market director Anthony Niravong says organisers work to ensure the offering across all markets is ever-changing, regardless of theme.
“We are always looking for unique retailers to join the Old Bus Depot Market family,” he says.
In addition to themed Sundays, the markets occasionally host special events – such as the upcoming Canberra Wool Expo 2022 from 14 to 15 May.
Drawing craftspeople from Canberra, the region and interstate who come to create, demonstrate and sell the fabulous fibre, customers will get a rare opportunity to speak with the industry’s passionate producers, craftspeople and artists.
“Felt-makers, weavers, spinners, crocheters and knitters from the Canberra region are coming,” Richard says.
“Hephner the alpaca will be onsite – he has his own social media following. He’s a cool looking alpaca and we’ll have some llamas on site as well.”
If it can be created in wool, you may find it at the markets where customers can browse and buy hand-felted garments and accessories, designer knitwear, weavings and farm label knitwear.
There will also be a vast selection of woollen yarns, including hand-spun and hand-dyed yarns.
As the Old Bus Depot Markets shakes off the vestiges of COVID lockdowns, Richard says that more events are on the horizon including Makers Con (like Comicon for original works) and the Jewel of Canberra jewellery show.
Multicultural Sunday next takes place this Sunday (1 May). For a full schedule of themed Sundays click here. For all events including the Canberra Wool Expo 2022 click here. For general enquiries visit the website.