2022, installation, multi-channel sound, corrugated iron, timber, earth, ash, clay lotas (with Isha Ram Das)
“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.” – Blue Assembly: Oceanic Thinking, UQ Art Museum, Brisbane 2022.
Commissioned by UQ Art Museum for Blue Assembly: Oceanic Thinking 2022.