2018 Program pt 1

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Your Woman is a Very Bad Woman

Your Woman is a Very Bad Woman

Quishile Charan

Opening 04.04.18 6-8pm
Artist Talks 26.04.18 6-7pm

Seen as inherently predisposed to unclean acts of desire, the role of the indentured Indian woman in Fiji has been seen as a site of immorality and impurity since their arrival in Fiji. Coolie woman were forced into a preconceived racialised other through a desexualised and hyper-sexualised dichotomy. This created an oscillation that sustained the propagation of the colonial body as it slipped indentured ‘others’ into exceptional localities of exploitation. The assumed identities made for these women during the indenture period were of a fluxing set of patriarchal ideals: The ‘pure’ labourer, the wife, the mother. A coolie woman was sought to serve both her empire and male counterpart. Within indentured labour’s corrupt nature, however, women became targeted as the sinful undoing of a system seen as a utopian contract of bonded labour ideals.

For this exhibition, Charan has developed a textile narrative in conversation with female elders in Fiji as a site of healing for descendants through traditional knowledge systems. The tradition of craft and textile is used as a meta-language of cultural strength and female resilience through flora and fauna. Charan stitches a personal story of indenture together with the Indian indentured woman as the central figure, in an action to undo their colonial erasure.
The title for this exhibition is taken from the seminal paper ‘Your Woman is a Very Bad Woman’: Revisiting Female Deviance in Colonial Fiji’ by Margaret Mishra.


Quishile Charan is an emerging artist living and working in Aotearoa, New Zealand of Indo-Fijian heritage. Charan uses traditional modes of textile making to reflect upon the landscape of Indentured Labour and the on-going neo-colonial affects on the Indo-Fijian community. Wood-carved flora and fauna stamped onto naturally dyed cotton cloth serves as a tool to re-write and restore ownership of Indo-Fijian history. Through grassroots methodology, knowledge is kept and stored with each length of fabric created, both a form of visually-expressed oral storytelling and an offering to the girmitiyas, the ancestors of Indenture. Recent projects include The Tomorrow People (group), Adam Art Gallery, Wellington (2017); Namesake (with Salome Taluvasa) Enjoy Public Art Gallery, Wellington, 2017, A Turn of the Wheel (group), Malcolm Smith Gallery, Auckland, 2017; New Perspectives, ARTSPACE, Auckland, 2016; and Samundar and Haldi at Objectspace, Auckland, 2016. Charan has a BFA (Hons) from Elam School of Fine Arts, The University of Auckland.