The Sleep of Convicts is the result of my ongoing research into the presence of Filipino and ethnic migrants within late colonial Australia. These drawings were based on historical photographs and death masks researched from the state archives of Victoria. On the right is a drawing of Ned Kelly’s death mask whilst on the left is that of Filippi Castillo, a Filipino cook imprisoned in 1889. Both were imprisoned and executed at the Old Melbourne Gaol.
When I happened upon the death mask of an obscure Filipino migrant from the late 1880s, I was genuinely shocked. Growing up in the Western suburbs of Sydney, I always felt a slight disconnect with Australian history. High-school textbooks often explained the arrival of South-East Asian migrants as a recent phenomenon, mostly happening since the 90s.
As a Filipino-Australian this work expresses my desire to find greater affinity with the narratives of Australian History. Placing an obscure Filipino convict alongside Ned Kelly, the quintessential Australian bushranger, is my attempt at uncovering those many ethnic voices representative of Australia’s convict past, as historical materials typical of Australia’s penal heritage is retold through the drawings of a Filipino-Australian artist.
Click below for more images and texts related to the work:
Forgotten Faces Exhibition
Exhibition Essay by Sophia Cai