10 Jan 2019 - 10 Feb 2019
Clark House Initiative
In textiles that uphold her community’s traditional craft methodologies, Indo-Fijian artist Quishile Charan urges the utmost respect for the once-hidden histories of girmitiyas resilience—looking and looking again at their stories of survival—as a counter-colonial act that re-stitches history into armour.
Indentured labour began with contracts polished by lies. These contracts led signees to distant lands including Fiji, to inescapable debt spirals, and to labour conditions that would come to be known as narak. The truth of this past became an unspoken trauma shrouded in silence by the community it so wounded. But this silence, too, is a wound.
Quishile envisions a time when no one in her community is ashamed to talk about the history of indentured labour. Working towards this future, she creates narratives centered around Indo-Fijian voices and strength. In a visual language that narrates a history beyond words, she gathers precious memories from ancestors both living and dead into a collage of gratitude towards the community that birthed her.
The Indo-Fijian woman in particular was and continues to be vilified as deviant and whore—a colonial scapegoating framework used to smother the activism and independence that rose first and foremost from the female indentured population. At Clark House Initiative, Quishile rejects the shame placed upon her female ancestors in favour of their power, connecting the past to the present in a chain of unbreakable women.
Text by Casey Carsel