Sancintya Mohini Simpson was joined in conversation with historian and curator Imelda Miller, to discuss ‘The legacy of indentured labour’, bringing to fore the colonial practice of forced and indentured labour and tracing its impacts to the present day. Simpson and Miller use their own archival research practices and exhibition-making as a tool to bring their ancestral stories to light and act as a sites of acknowledgement, commemoration, and healing. The discussion explored the often-absented stories of ‘blackbirding’ South Sea Islander communities—a practice of kidnapping and forced labour on sugar cane farms in Australia—and the parallel history of Indian indentured labour forced to work in South African sugar cane plantations. Simpson and Miller draw on these stories to discuss the complicated narratives of colonialism and contemporary society.
This talk was followed by a First Thursdays with Sancintya Mohini Simpson (Women’s History Month) featuring performances in the courtyard by Joella Warkill, Manisha Anjali, Shivanjani Lal, Sancintya Mohini Simpson, and Isha Ram Das who shared connected familial histories marked by the colonial sugar industry’s system of indenture. Simpson and her collaborators took over the IMA courtyard with an evening of performance that brought together language, gesture, and ritual to invoked the stories of women forgotten by colonial histories. The night will give voice to the performers’ ancestors—who journeyed across oceans to be bound by sugar plantations.