2021, watercolour and gouache on handmade wasli paper, 88x63cm each, series of 9
Art Jameel Collection

Jahajin acknowledges the history and experiences of women taken from India to South Africa as indentured labourers during the late 1800’s and throughout the early 1900’s. Fragments of their experiences are drawn from the archives—a process that grasps to uncover a hidden and often erased history of exploitation. Gaps in knowledge dislocate these figures from the landscape and location. Simpson reframes the ownership of this history and pays tribute to the ghosts of forgotten women.

Traditional miniature painting in South Asia focuses on privileged persons in terms of gender, caste, class and colourism. Simpson’s use of the style of miniature painting centres casteless coolie women bringing their history forward and allowing their stories to be accounted for, acknowledged and recorded.

Note: Jahajin is a transliteration of the South African Bhojpuri term ‘ship-sister’ used to acknowledge the friendships made between women on ships as they were taken from their homes in Indian and brought to the plantations, acknowledging their placement in a new foreign landscape.

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'Jahajin (collecting)' 2021, watercolour, gouache, on handmade wasli paper, 63 x 88 cm (irreg.). Photo: Carl Warner. Art Jameel Collection.

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'Jahajin (slashing)' 2021, watercolour, gouache, on handmade wasli paper, 63 x 88 cm (irreg.). Photo: Carl Warner. Art Jameel Collection.

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'Jahajin (minding)' 2021, watercolour, gouache, on handmade wasli paper, 63 x 88 cm (irreg.). Photo: Carl Warner. Art Jameel Collection.

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'Jahajin (washing)' 2021, watercolour, gouache, on handmade wasli paper, 63 x 88 cm (irreg.). Photo: Carl Warner. Art Jameel Collection.

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'Jahajin (crouching)' 2021, watercolour, gouache, on handmade wasli paper, 63 x 88 cm (irreg.). Photo: Carl Warner. Art Jameel Collection.

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'Jahajin (resisting)' 2021, watercolour, gouache, on handmade wasli paper, 63 x 88 cm (irreg.). Photo: Carl Warner. Art Jameel Collection.

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'Jahajin (carrying)' 2021, watercolour, gouache, on handmade wasli paper, 63 x 88 cm (irreg.). Photo: Carl Warner. Art Jameel Collection.

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'Jahajin (leaning)' 2021, watercolour, gouache, on handmade wasli paper, 63 x 88 cm (irreg.). Photo: Carl Warner. Art Jameel Collection.

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'Jahajin (cooking)' 2021, watercolour, gouache, on handmade wasli paper, 63 x 88 cm (irreg.). Photo: Carl Warner. Private Collection.