⇧ 7 NOVEMBER- 29 NOVEMBER
⇨We Do Not Have Enough to Satisfy Our Bellies
⇩Esha Pillay & Quishile Charan
1920 marked the end of all Girmit contracts under indentured labour. Indenture—the colonial sugar economy built for Empire and colonial states such as Australia and New Zealand—was crumbling under the labour sabotage acts of resistance led by coolies or girmitiya. The 1920 strike was inevitable: tensions in the country were reaching a zenith as food shortages increasingly affected girmitiya; the cost of living had surpassed daily wages; Empire was grasping for a control that was, at last, surpassing its reach; state-sanctioned paranoia was growing; and anxieties that the British Empire would introduce a new system of bonded labour spread across the coolie community. The girmitiya were awaiting their new future and decided to take political action to combat a colonial state that had only seen them as labouring units—animals that toiled in the fields.
The phrase “we do not have enough to satisfy our bellies” was uttered, screamed, and pleaded throughout historical moments up to and during the 1920 strike. This new exhibition re-visits the strike through archival material, secondary sources, oral accounts, and newspaper articles to dismantle the ever-present colonial and patriarchal voices that dominate and steal these narratives from the female girmitiya who led this strike. We Do Not Have Enough to Satisfy Our Bellies centres female girmitiya acts of resistance as brave and courageous at a time of increased violence. This exhibition will unfold both onsite and online, examining how descendents take up their responsibilities to respect and uphold their female ancestors—women routinely forgotten within Girmit history. The research surrounding the strike will be presented online as a shared labour between Esha Pillay and Quishile Charan, this collaboration is a form of maintaining and building friendships that act as a contemporary undertaking of resistance tactics led by female girmitiya, strengthening bonds for female descendents, and pool the few resources at our disposal. Charan will highlight key points of the 1920 strike onsite through hand-made textile banners that adorn and memorialise these acts of resistance. In conjunction with an essay created in collaboration between Charan and Pillay, the exhibition will include commissioned texts from Kris Prasad and Roshika Deo, with further historical information unfolding across an Instagram residency.