Sancintya Mohini Simpson, Vessel/Vessel, 2022. UQ Art Museum Window Commission.
Sancintya Mohini Simpson, Vessel/Vessel, 2022. Poem, ink on wall.
Sancintya Mohini Simpson, Ṭāpū, 2022. Watercolour and gouache on handmade wasli paper, triptych.
Isha Ram Das and Sancintya Mohini Simpson, Vessel, 2022. Installation, multi-channel sound, corrugated iron, timber, earth, ash, clay lotas.

“Sibling artist duo Sancintya Mohini Simpson and Isha Ram Das are descendants of indentured labourers sent from India to work on colonial sugar plantations in the colony of Natal (now KwaZulu–Natal, South Africa). Together their work charts the complexities of migration, matrilineal memory and trauma, addressing silences within the colonial archive.

Vessel (2022) is a large-scale sound installation by the artists, which reframes colonial histories and perspectives on Indian indentured labour through experimental sound. Inside a makeshift housing structure, mounds of aromatic earth support clay lota vessels emanating an arresting soundscape. The audio acknowledges the history and lived experiences of those taken from India to South Africa during the late 1800s and the early 1900s. As a form that carries, both literally and metaphorically, the clay lota vessels become ancestral objects that deliver these histories through song and enacted ritual.

Here, the artists’ work reorients ownership of this history and pays homage to those forgotten, who were sent out across the ‘dark waters’ of the Indian Ocean to Natal. While these works refer directly to the South African sugar cane plantations, they are in parallel to the local and often-absent stories of what is known as ‘blackbirding’ in Australia—the practice of kidnapping South Sea Islander communities and their forced labour on sugar cane farms.

Indian miniature painting historically focused on privileging the dominant gender, caste, and class, often omitting the daily lives and experiences of women. In Ṭāpū (2022), Sancintya Mohini Simpson employs miniature technique charting the violence of indenture across the Indian Ocean to Natal, with two protagonists; a casteless woman adrift in an oceanscape, and the vessel of a colonial ship. The woman is submerged under the waves of a tumultuous sea, seemingly cast overboard, and the tall ship continues on out of frame.

Ṭāpū can be understood across many diasporic languages of South Asia—Sanskrit, Marathi, Hindi, among others—as taboo; island; a body surrounded by water on all sides; or the exiling of a person from the mainland. Here in relation to indentured labour, Simpson takes a little-known South African Bhojpuri definition of Ṭāpū to mean, “anyone who disappeared from the village (absconded, lost, or murdered) was said to have gone to Ṭāpū, so there was an evil association…” The slippage of language here is important, as Ṭāpū took on new meaning through the forcible displacement of communities, across oceans, to the sugar cane fields of Natal.

Upon the backdrop of a stormy wavescape, the commission of Vessel/Vessel (2022) on the front windows of UQ Art Museum pulls a phrase from her adjacent poem ‘we carry and hold these vessels.’ Here, the word ‘vessel’ is interchangeable to mean body, water, boat, and by extension, museum, as a site of the ongoing colonial project. Simpson gestures to ancestral ‘black waters’, both consumed and embodied, but also to submerged futures due to sea-level rise.”

(Translation reference: Tinker, Hugh in Rajend Mesthrie (ed), “New Lights from Old Languages: Indian Languages and the Experience of Indentureship in South Africa,” in Essays on Indentured Indians in Natal, p.198, 1988) – Blue Assembly: Oceanic ThinkingUQ Art Museum, Brisbane 2022 (curated by Peta Rake).

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Sancintya Mohini Simpson, Vessel/Vessel, 2022. UQ Art Museum Window Commission.

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Sancintya Mohini Simpson, Vessel/Vessel, 2022. UQ Art Museum Window Commission. Photo: Joe Ruckli.

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Sancintya Mohini Simpson, Vessel/Vessel, 2022. UQ Art Museum Window Commission. Photo: Joe Ruckli.

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Sancintya Mohini Simpson, Vessel/Vessel, 2022. UQ Art Museum Window Commission. Photo: Joe Ruckli.

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Sancintya Mohini Simpson, Vessel/Vessel, 2022. UQ Art Museum Window Commission. Photo: Joe Ruckli.

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Sancintya Mohini Simpson, Vessel/Vessel, 2022. UQ Art Museum Window Commission. Photo: Joe Ruckli.

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Sancintya Mohini Simpson, Vessel/Vessel, 2022. UQ Art Museum Window Commission. Photo: Joe Ruckli.

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Sancintya Mohini Simpson, Vessel/Vessel, 2022. UQ Art Museum Window Commission. Photo: Joe Ruckli.

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Sancintya Mohini Simpson, Vessel/Vessel, 2022. UQ Art Museum Window Commission. Photo: Joe Ruckli.

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Sancintya Mohini Simpson, Vessel/Vessel, 2022. UQ Art Museum Window Commission. Photo: Joe Ruckli.

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Oceanic Thinking
University of Queensland Art Museum

19 February–25 June 2022
Artists: Sancintya Mohini Simpson, Isha Ram Das, Elise Rasmussen, Izabela Pluta, Monira Al Qadiri, Tabita Rezaire, Stephanie Comilang, Alicia Mersy​, Birrmuyingathi Maali Netta Loogatha, Kuruwarriyingathi Bijarrb Paula Paul, Salote Tawale, Benjamin Armstrong, Charles Callins, Andreas Angelidakis and SUPERFLEX.

Oceanic Thinking presents new ways of understanding the ocean and the adjacent blue spaces of our planet. It invites you to consider how we may be able to think together with these liquid, vast, biodiverse and non-binary spaces to speculate on our collective future.

Artworks reveal cutting-edge perspectives and research, and stimulate discussions about race, the ongoing extractive colonial project, climate crises, decolonisation, languages, industries, sci-fi, diasporas, interspecies relations and kinship.

The exhibition’s title is a play on the psychoanalytic phrase “oceanic feeling”: the sensation of a boundless, everlasting bond with the world as a whole.

Oceanic Thinking is the inaugural exhibition of the multi-year project Blue Assembly. In collaboration with campus partners including UQ’s Centre for Marine Science, the project coincides with the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030).

Oceanic Thinking is a Climate Active carbon neutral certified event.

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Oceanic Thinking
University of Queensland Art Museum

19 February–25 June 2022
Artists: Sancintya Mohini Simpson, Isha Ram Das, Elise Rasmussen, Izabela Pluta, Monira Al Qadiri, Tabita Rezaire, Stephanie Comilang, Alicia Mersy​, Birrmuyingathi Maali Netta Loogatha, Kuruwarriyingathi Bijarrb Paula Paul, Salote Tawale, Benjamin Armstrong, Charles Callins, Andreas Angelidakis and SUPERFLEX.

Oceanic Thinking presents new ways of understanding the ocean and the adjacent blue spaces of our planet. It invites you to consider how we may be able to think together with these liquid, vast, biodiverse and non-binary spaces to speculate on our collective future.

Artworks reveal cutting-edge perspectives and research, and stimulate discussions about race, the ongoing extractive colonial project, climate crises, decolonisation, languages, industries, sci-fi, diasporas, interspecies relations and kinship.

The exhibition’s title is a play on the psychoanalytic phrase “oceanic feeling”: the sensation of a boundless, everlasting bond with the world as a whole.

Oceanic Thinking is the inaugural exhibition of the multi-year project Blue Assembly. In collaboration with campus partners including UQ’s Centre for Marine Science, the project coincides with the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030).

Oceanic Thinking is a Climate Active carbon neutral certified event.

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Sancintya Mohini Simpson, 'Ṭāpū', 2022. Watercolour and gouache on handmade wasli paper, triptych. Photo: Joe Ruckli.

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Sancintya Mohini Simpson, 'Vessel/Vessel', 2022. Poem, ink on wall.

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Sancintya Mohini Simpson, 'Vessel/Vessel', 2022. Poem, ink on wall.

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Sancintya Mohini Simpson, 'Vessel/Vessel', 2022. Poem, ink on wall. Sancintya Mohini Simpson, 'Ṭāpū', 2022. Watercolour and gouache on handmade wasli paper, triptych. Photo: Joe Ruckli.

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Sancintya Mohini Simpson, 'Ṭāpū', 2022. Watercolour and gouache on handmade wasli paper, triptych. Photo: Joe Ruckli.

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Sancintya Mohini Simpson, 'Ṭāpū', 2022. Watercolour and gouache on handmade wasli paper, triptych. Photo: Joe Ruckli.

Oceanic Thinking
University of Queensland Art Museum

19 February–25 June 2022
Artists: Sancintya Mohini Simpson, Isha Ram Das, Elise Rasmussen, Izabela Pluta, Monira Al Qadiri, Tabita Rezaire, Stephanie Comilang, Alicia Mersy​, Birrmuyingathi Maali Netta Loogatha, Kuruwarriyingathi Bijarrb Paula Paul, Salote Tawale, Benjamin Armstrong, Charles Callins, Andreas Angelidakis and SUPERFLEX.

Oceanic Thinking presents new ways of understanding the ocean and the adjacent blue spaces of our planet. It invites you to consider how we may be able to think together with these liquid, vast, biodiverse and non-binary spaces to speculate on our collective future.

Artworks reveal cutting-edge perspectives and research, and stimulate discussions about race, the ongoing extractive colonial project, climate crises, decolonisation, languages, industries, sci-fi, diasporas, interspecies relations and kinship.

The exhibition’s title is a play on the psychoanalytic phrase “oceanic feeling”: the sensation of a boundless, everlasting bond with the world as a whole.

Oceanic Thinking is the inaugural exhibition of the multi-year project Blue Assembly. In collaboration with campus partners including UQ’s Centre for Marine Science, the project coincides with the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030).

Oceanic Thinking is a Climate Active carbon neutral certified event.

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Sancintya Mohini Simpson, 'Ṭāpū', 2022. Watercolour and gouache on handmade wasli paper, triptych. Photo: Joe Ruckli.

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Sancintya Mohini Simpson, 'Ṭāpū', 2022. Watercolour and gouache on handmade wasli paper, triptych. Photo: Joe Ruckli.

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Isha Ram Das and Sancintya Mohini Simpson, 'Vessel', 2022. Installation, multi-channel sound, corrugated iron, timber, earth, ash, clay lotas. Photos: Joe Ruckli.

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Isha Ram Das and Sancintya Mohini Simpson, 'Vessel', 2022. Installation, multi-channel sound, corrugated iron, timber, earth, ash, clay lotas. Photos: Joe Ruckli.

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Isha Ram Das and Sancintya Mohini Simpson, 'Vessel', 2022. Installation, multi-channel sound, corrugated iron, timber, earth, ash, clay lotas. Photos: Joe Ruckli.

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Isha Ram Das and Sancintya Mohini Simpson, 'Vessel', 2022. Installation, multi-channel sound, corrugated iron, timber, earth, ash, clay lotas. Photos: Joe Ruckli.

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Isha Ram Das and Sancintya Mohini Simpson, 'Vessel', 2022. Installation, multi-channel sound, corrugated iron, timber, earth, ash, clay lotas. Photos: Joe Ruckli.

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Isha Ram Das and Sancintya Mohini Simpson, 'Vessel', 2022. Installation, multi-channel sound, corrugated iron, timber, earth, ash, clay lotas. Photos: Joe Ruckli.

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Isha Ram Das and Sancintya Mohini Simpson, 'Vessel', 2022. Installation, multi-channel sound, corrugated iron, timber, earth, ash, clay lotas. Photos: Joe Ruckli.

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Isha Ram Das and Sancintya Mohini Simpson, 'Vessel', 2022. Installation, multi-channel sound, corrugated iron, timber, earth, ash, clay lotas. Photos: Joe Ruckli.

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Isha Ram Das and Sancintya Mohini Simpson, 'Vessel', 2022. Installation, multi-channel sound, corrugated iron, timber, earth, ash, clay lotas. Photos: Joe Ruckli.

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Isha Ram Das and Sancintya Mohini Simpson, 'Vessel', 2022. Installation, multi-channel sound, corrugated iron, timber, earth, ash, clay lotas. Photos: Joe Ruckli.

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Isha Ram Das and Sancintya Mohini Simpson, 'Vessel', 2022. Installation, multi-channel sound, corrugated iron, timber, earth, ash, clay lotas. Photos: Joe Ruckli.

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Isha Ram Das and Sancintya Mohini Simpson, 'Vessel', 2022. Installation, multi-channel sound, corrugated iron, timber, earth, ash, clay lotas. Photos: Joe Ruckli.

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Isha Ram Das and Sancintya Mohini Simpson, 'Vessel', 2022. Installation, multi-channel sound, corrugated iron, timber, earth, ash, clay lotas. Photos: Joe Ruckli.

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Isha Ram Das and Sancintya Mohini Simpson, 'Vessel', 2022. Installation, multi-channel sound, corrugated iron, timber, earth, ash, clay lotas. Photos: Joe Ruckli.

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Isha Ram Das and Sancintya Mohini Simpson, 'Vessel', 2022. Installation, multi-channel sound, corrugated iron, timber, earth, ash, clay lotas. Photos: Joe Ruckli.

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Isha Ram Das and Sancintya Mohini Simpson, 'Vessel', 2022. Installation, multi-channel sound, corrugated iron, timber, earth, ash, clay lotas. Photos: Joe Ruckli.

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Isha Ram Das and Sancintya Mohini Simpson, 'Vessel', 2022. Installation, multi-channel sound, corrugated iron, timber, earth, ash, clay lotas. Photos: Joe Ruckli.