SEVENTH Gallery Exhibition

Image of textile-making by Quishile. A brown banner is laid out with red lettering and light beige block prints of machete knives. Embroidery in progress of two hands crossed in embroidery hoop is next to the banner in the upper right corner.

SEVENTH Gallery Exhibition We Do Not Have Enough to Satisfy Our Bellies, Melbourne, November 2019

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 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 exhibition re-visited 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 women who led this strike. We Do Not Have Enough to Satisfy Our Bellies centres Girmitiya acts of resistance as brave and courageous at a time of increased violence. Quishile Charan highlighted key points of the 1920 strike onsite through hand-made textile banners that adorn and memorialise these acts of resistance. The research surrounding the strike is detailed in the online essay Undoing History’s Spell on Bad Women: Counter-colonial narratives of the female Girmit role in the 1920 labour strike by Esha Pillay and Quishile Charan.

All images courtesy of SEVENTH gallery.

Quishile Charan, We Do Not Have Enough to Satisfy Bellies Protest Banner, 2019, cotton, textile ink, natural dye: aal bark and kumkum seeds, 493 x 117 cm.

Quishile Charan and Esha Pillay. We Do Not Have Enough to Satisfy Our Bellies: Protest Banner, SEVENTH Gallery. Melbourne, Australia, 2019.

Installation: cotton, textile ink, natural dye (aal bark and kumkum seeds). 4930mm x 1170mm.

Quishile Charan, Sushila’s Letter, 2019, archival document, cotton, textile ink, natural dye: haldi (turmeric) and kumkum seeds, 136 x 130 cm.

Quishile Charan. We Do Not Have Enough to Satisfy Our Bellies, SEVENTH Gallery. Melbourne, Australia, 2019.

Left: Sushila’s Letter. Archival document, cotton, textile ink, natural dye: haldi (turmeric) and kumkum seeds. 1360mm x 1300mm.

Right: The Female Horror: Fiji Times Article 1920. Archival document, cotton, textile ink, natural dye: haldi (turmeric) and marigold flower. 930mm x 1430mm.

Quishile Charan, Sushila’s Letter, 2019, archival document, cotton, textile ink, natural dye: haldi (turmeric) and kumkum seeds, 136 x 130 cm.

Quishile Charan. We Do Not Have Enough to Satisfy Our Bellies, SEVENTH Gallery. Melbourne, Australia, 2019.

Sushila’s Letter. Archival document, cotton, textile ink, natural dye: haldi (turmeric) and kumkum seeds. 1360mm x 1300mm.

Quishile Charan, Sushila’s Letter (detail), 2019.

Quishile Charan. We Do Not Have Enough to Satisfy Our Bellies, SEVENTH Gallery. Melbourne, Australia, 2019.

Installation detail: cotton, textile ink, natural dye: haldi (turmeric).

Quishile Charan, Oral History: Glass Bangles Broken in Protest at Police Barrier, Nausori 1920. 2019. Embroidery thread, handmade Mohar coins, cotton, 110 x 100 cm.

Quishile Charan. We Do Not Have Enough to Satisfy Our Bellies, SEVENTH Gallery. Melbourne, Australia, 2019.

Oral History: Glass Bangles Broken in Protest at Police Barrier, Nausori 1920. Embroidery thread, handmade Mohar coins, cotton. 1100mm x 1000mm.

Quishile Charan, Oral History: Glass Bangles Broken in Protest at Police Barrier, Nausori 1920. 2019. Close up details of handmade Mohar.

Quishile Charan. We Do Not Have Enough to Satisfy Our Bellies, SEVENTH Gallery. Melbourne, Australia, 2019.

Installation detail: embroidery thread, handmade Mohar coins, cotton. 1100mm x 1000mm.

Quishile Charan, Oral History: Glass Bangles Broken in Protest at Police Barrier, Nausori 1920. 2019. Close up details of embroidered hands.

Quishile Charan. We Do Not Have Enough to Satisfy Our Bellies, SEVENTH Gallery. Melbourne, Australia, 2019.

Installation detail: cotton and embroidery thread. 1100mm x 1000mm.