‘Kūlī nām dharāyā / they’ve given you the name ‘coolie’’ evokes the lived experiences of indentured labourers taken from India to Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa) to work on sugar plantations during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Continuing to trace her familial history, Simpson creates a new archive that speaks to shared narratives of indentured labour.
The word ‘coolie’ is a term that was often used derogatively in relation to Indian indenture diaspora. By using language linked to this past, Simpson’s exhibition brings forward colonial narratives to acknowledge the strength of her people: their stories and legacies embodied in a large-scale corrugated iron structure filled with video, sound, and smell. Through this sensory and immersive work, Simpson offers a reflective space for ongoing resistance and healing.
Simpson’s exhibition at IMA Belltower is accompanied by a new projection work developed in collaboration with Sai Karlen for the façade of the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts.