We are Here
WE ARE HERE , a group show, presented by Midsumma Festival and State Library Victoria in association with ALGA, January to April 2018.
In recognition of almost 50 years of the Lesbian, Gay and Trans political movement in Australia and 40th Anniversary of ALGA's dedicated archives, five outstanding contemporary visual artists create new works.
I created a new photographic installation, 'The Valorisation of US', drawing on archival material from the State Library Victoria.
the Valorisation of US
When I was invited to explore the State Library Victoria and Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives collections, I was perhaps a little naïve in my excitement at the possibility of uncovering archival materials that represented someone like me: a Somali Scottish Australian Lesbian.
However doing a catalogue search within the archives with words such as ‘Somali’, ‘African’, ‘lesbian’, ‘unmarried’, I found the treasure chest to be largely bare, except for an albumen photograph of a young Somali woman in a late 1800s colonist’s photo album.
The album in which I found the photograph had belonged to Sir Henry Barkly, a Scot and Governor of Victoria 1856 – 1863.
The photograph, taken on Barkly’s travels in Mauritius, has a handwritten title, ‘Somalee Woman’.
It shows the young nameless woman bare-shouldered wearing pre-Islamic garb, rather than the colourful hijabs we are familiar with today.
I saw that her hands, hair and features were like mine, and I was both moved and disturbed: she was beautiful but sexualized and clearly heavy with the weight of having her image captured.
‘Resurrection the Valorization of Us’, offers a photographic response, to the found archival image, created near Barkly street and square in Brunswick Victoria, both a nod to the Governor and ‘remix’; to nudge and push out a space, to render us both visible.
I cut the three images I created into diamond shapes in response to the diamond cut design of Barkly’s leather photo album. I photographed and enlarged the leather cover to provide a textual background for my works to sit on top.
In the central image I carry, as does the young Somali woman, a Xeedho, a Somali wedding basket, hers with cowry shells mine with a rainbow ribbon.
With this workmy new works, I now place myself within the State Library, an affirmation and re -construction of myself within our current colonial conditions.
I valorize the young woman in the photograph, along with my younger and older self: I am here, we are here.