Yask Desai

2019 - Ongoing

My work, Telia, involves the use of archival materials, documentation and the creation of self-authored photographs to pay a subjective homage to the men who migrated from undivided India and worked as hawkers in rural Australia between the late 19th and mid 20th centuries.

I have sought to discover a balance between the creation of new imagery and the utilisation of existing visual material. In this sense Telia may be seen to be following the methodology stated by Fontcuberta that, “preserving a sustainable equilibrium within the universe of images requires coordinating the containment of production with acts of recovery.”

The purpose of the work is not to create a definitive reinterpretation of existing histories of the men who worked as hawkers. Instead I attempt to adopt a methodology that combines the study of existing subjective South Asian histories in Australia with visually based production and recovery that creates meaning, and offers a historically orientated socio-political narrative concerning specific race relations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries within colonial Australia.

Telia is important because much of the existing academic and visually based discourse about the hawkers positions them in a singularly historical context and separates them from current conceptions and discussions of Australian identity. Telia however (partially through the creation of environmental portraits of decedents of the hawkers) links present-day notions of contemporary Australian identity with past historical milieus and constructs.

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