All images provided courtesy of Dusk Devi & Pacific Runway
Bad Fiji Gyals launched their head turning project in 2020 with a force to be reckoned with and they’re on track to burn their name into the history books.
A podcast, an essay and an online gallery of exhibited works kicked off their entry into the digital space. In an unapologetic statement on their website, Esha Pillay and Quishile Charan are very clear on their intentions, “We fight against any monolithic identity that forces different Girmit descendants, communities and experiences to fit into dominant Indo-Fijian narratives without questioning. We do not engage in romanticising our Girmit histories to further marginalise women, queer, trans, gender non-confirming (GNC) and non-binary (NB) ancestors and descendants.”
And their vibrant and informative social media prescence lives up to every bit of that declaration.
Today’s post will cover the very direct and fierce ways #Girmitiya women fought back on colonial plantations in #Fiji. We share some resistance tactics that are recorded, but we know that there were many ways our ancestors fought back and many of these weren’t written down. pic.twitter.com/d9JUKqCNzW
— Bad Fiji Gyals (@badfijigyals) March 29, 2021
They are currently busy preparing for their upcoming online exhibition Coolie Cut Cane – according to Charan, though, the term ‘exhibition’ doesn’t quite encapsulate the expansiveness of the next release of their project as it’s weaves together various intersections of stories and expressions of displacement.
Over the last year, Pillay and Charan each undertook major research projects each that looked at Australia and New Zealand’s contribution to indentured labour in Fiji.
Underpinning Coolie Cut Cane is the desire to highlight and unpack the interconnectedness of colonised territories across Oceania. “There are interconnected histories, different forms of colonisation but you can’t have one without the other.” Charan explains.
“In academia, these stories happen in isolation, rather than looking at how these stories are connected. You can’t have Girmit without the displacement of Indigenous communities in New Zealand or Australia.”
Together they’ve woven together trails of sugar, in a creative and heartbreaking revelation that link the genealogy of the two biggest sugar corporations in Australia and New Zealand to this date to their home island of Fiji and even our present day kitchens.
Acknowledging that iTaukei went through a specific form of colonisation that Charan refers to as ‘corporate colonisation’ they hope that this is a stepping stone into research and history for many who want to understand how colonisation has been enacted in various ways across different Islands and nations yet deeply bonds us together.
“You need to hear various stories of histories to speak to how histories are connected to so many other things. That’s a beautiful way of showing solidarity, and to show that the fight is together.”
Bad Fiji Gyals are raising funds for Coolie Cut Cane, and all donations will be directly towards covering the costs of web design, development, costs for textiles, design and delivery of an online essay and additional labour costs. You can support these amazing independent artists by donating to this epic storytelling project here.