Down an unassuming street on a busy corner of Footscray, you’ll find a café called Konjo.
As you enter, the first thing you’ll notice is the aroma of coffee, herbs and spices that will immediately wrap you up, and ask you to stay.
Rozenn is probably manning the coffee machine, perhaps with her youngest son perched on one hip, and if you’re lucky, she’ll be offering you freshly baked croissants. As for Abdul – you might find him in the kitchen cooking his signature Kitfo, or next door in the craft shop. As people walk by, they call out hellos, food orders, invitations, and are met with a laugh or a hug, or a coffee.
Motivated by a drive to empower people, Abdul & Rozenn have built a true Footscray institution in Konjo, and created a kind of cultural hub of their own.
Upon arrival from Ethiopa 25 years ago, Abdul looked for guidance on how to establish himself in this new country, and found the breadth of opportunity overwhelming. Aided by his natural passion, he began to devote the hours he wasn’t at work to developing his own business making African jewellery and crafts.
During that time, he met a beautiful French woman - Rozenn, who was here in Australia working as a teacher.
With time and a lot of hard work, the pair was able to establish their own craft shop, which has grown into the business they have today, and now includes two restaurants.
“Abdul is so passionate about sharing everything about Ethopia” says Rozenn. “the jewellery, the coffee, the culture, the food.” All of which is immediately evident in the business they’ve built together.
Abdul’s Coffee Ceremony is becoming well known across Melbourne as one of the best ways to experience coffee in this city. It’s an Ethiopian celebration, central to home life and the family, as well as playing a part in the larger community.
The idea is that through the process of sitting with family as you wash, roast, grind and brew the coffee from raw beans, the family has the opportunity to spend time together, discuss important issues and share their lives. The more you do it – the more connected you become.
The generosity with which they share this simple yet incredibly meaningful tradition, sums up this family.
Through a combination of natural leadership, and a genuine desire to nurture the community, Konjo has become far more than a place to eat and shop.
"That’s our passion," say Abdul and Rozenn, "our happiness".
Colour is important too – they see red, green and yellow as the colours that best represent them. Not only symbolically, although they obviously have great significance as the colours of the Ethiopian flag, through the years the pair were building their craft business, those colours were quite literally the foundation on which Konjo has been built.
In the West this family has found a place to belong, and they’re spending their lives working to make other people feel that way too. It’s refreshing to discover people who are genuinely out to make their world a better place – and in this case, we’re lucky enough to have them in the West.
Learn more about the Life In Colour story and meet the people who are influencing our corner of the city for the better.