Kelsey Ashe

Pearls & Blackbirds

Film screening
NWS Shipping Theatre, WA Maritime Museum
2-24 Nov | Thur-Sun | 10am-4pm | Screening every hour on the hour (40') // Closed 10 November

Special Activation
Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour
Fri 22 Nov, 8pm-10pm
Supported by Little Creatures Brewing | Anya Brock | City of Fremantle

Filmed underwater in the seas around Fremantle, 'Pearls and Blackbirds' examines both dark and light undercurrents of WA's historically significant pearling industry through contemplation of the lives and stories of female Aboriginal pearl divers and Japanese migrants that traversed through the port of Fremantle and Northern WA in the late nineteenth century. The commercial pearling industry transformed Northern WA into a prime colonial outpost of trade, and Fremantle into a flourishing multi-cultural port town, flushed with the affluence of ship building Pearl Luggers and off-season Pearl Masters spending their new fortunes. Secret histories of 'blackbirding' – forcing Aboriginal women, to dive for pearls is the darker undercurrent that fragments the exotic romanticism of the Pearling story. 'Pearls and Blackbirds' imbues an overdue acknowledgement of the collective histories of trauma and sorrow, whilst also imagining a visceral and mysterious underwater world. The film is a meditation on immense beauty and pain, humanity and redemption. It provokes difficult, yet transformative conversation by adding expressive voices to this significant era in WA history, helping to shape our cultural imagination, sense of belonging and identity.

Artist and Curator Kelsey Ashe pursues her interest in the Post-Colonial-Exotic, in particular the hybridity of cultural symbols within the Australasia-pacific basin. Combining film and commissioned performance, Ashe aims at a resonant interpretation of the female pearl divers, teasing out true stories and imagining the gaps in knowledge that acknowledge instances of human spirit and resilience. Ashe has a Hons, MA and Phd in Art.

WA Maritime Museum
Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries
University of Notre Dame Australia
Willie Creek Pearl Farm
Fremantle Sailing Club
Little Creatures