Jasmine Togo-Brisby’s exhibition responds to the artist’s discovery that her great-great-grandparents were acquired as house slaves by the Sydney-based Wunderlich family in 1899.
A letter sent to Togo-Brisby’s granny from Mrs Wunderlich provides the starting point for this exhibition; an extension of work first developed for the Courtenay Place Lightboxes and the concurrent restoration of the ceiling panels in Wellington Town Hall. The Wunderlich family company was established in 1885 and produced ornate, pressed-tin panels and architectural elements. Today, the designs can still be found in many buildings across Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand and are painstakingly preserved as heritage materials. For Togo-Brisby, a fourth-generation Australian South Sea Islander, these panels are an enduring physical manifestation of a colonial legacy that provides stark contrast to the scarcity of records available for South Sea Islanders, a group who trace their roots to Australia through the slave-diaspora.
For this exhibition, images are similarly presented as lightboxes, the work quite literally shedding new light on those histories of Pacific Slave Trade embedded and marginalised within contemporary material culture. Alongside the lightboxes sit a series of ornate cast ceiling panels in Togo-Brisby’s own design.
For further reading please see Ioana Gordon-Smith’s brilliant essay, originally published as a response to if these walls could talk, they’d tell you my name in the Courtenay Place Lightboxes (16 December 2019 – May 2020).