Forgotten Faces is the result of my ongoing research into the presence of Filipino and ethnic migrants within late colonial Australia. The exhibition featured a series of large-scale drawings of prisoners executed at Melbourne Gaol between 1875 and 1894. These works are based on the historical photographs and death masks researched from the state archives of Victoria. Alongside the quintessential Ned Kelly, there were also drawings of a Filipino cook, a son of an African American slave, an Indian hawker and a Chinese opium dealer.
Born in the Philippines, my family migrated to Sydney when I was eight years old. My art practice has been influenced by my experience of growing up on the peripheries of Australian culture—as an outsider looking in—this body of work seeks to coalesce my identity as a migrant Filipino with the diverse stories constituting the Australian cultural landscape. My fascination with these obscure ‘ethnic’ convicts, contemporaneous with the famed Ned Kelly, was spurred on by a longing for a greater sense of belonging and affinity with the grand narratives of Australian history. This exhibition seeks to uncover those 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: Exhibition text by Sophia Cai Artwork images and specifications
Photos by Teegan McAuley