Sancintya Mohini Simpson



This series of actions, titled karambu*, developed for 52 ACTIONS is part of my ongoing research navigating my familial history as a descendant of Indian indentured labourers sent to work on sugar plantations in Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa). This action reframes and reimagines the colonial archive that has stood to represent my family and this history of sugar and indenture, countering it from the perspective of those indentured and their descendants. karambu takes form as a counter-archive, moving away from colonial representations of this history towards a consideration of culturally specific frameworks, oral traditions and the intangible. This work is made of sounds, words and images that offer space for these histories.

This action will also acknowledge artists and communities from the indentured labour diaspora, whose histories and descendants span a vast geography.

*transliteration of the Tamil word for sugarcane, one of the terms used by indentured labourers in Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa).

This project was supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland, and by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.

Sound recordings: Isha Ram Das

Artist bio


Sancintya Mohini Simpson is an artist and researcher based in Brisbane, Australia. She is a descendent of indentured labourers sent to work, from India to South Africa, on colonial sugar plantations. Her work navigates the complexities of migration, memory and trauma through addressing gaps and silences within the colonial archive. Simpson’s work moves between painting, video, poetry and performance to develop narratives and rituals. Her practice is grounded in collaboration and community engagement, connecting wider narratives surrounding descendants of indenture and their diaspora communities.

Simpson’s recent solo exhibitions include New Old Archives, Milani Gallery, Brisbane, Kūlī nām dharāyā/ they’ve given you the name ‘coolie’, Institute of Modern Art Belltower, Brisbane, and Echoes Over Oceans (with Shivanjani Lal), Firstdraft, Sydney, 2020; Remnants of my ancestors, Boxcopy (Hobiennale), Hobart, and Natal’s Coolie Women, CARPARK, Milani Gallery, Brisbane, 2019; and Bloodlines at Metro Arts, Brisbane and Blak Dot Gallery (Next Wave Festival), Melbourne, 2018. Her work has been exhibited and performed at a number of institutions, most recently at the Museum of Brisbane, 2020; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 2019; and QUT Art Museum, Brisbane, 2018. In 2019 she undertook a residency at 1Shanthiroad in Bangalore, India, awarded through Asialink Arts Creative Exchange. Simpson is represented by Milani Gallery, Brisbane, Australia.

Past Actions

16 Nov - 22 Nov 2020

Rolande Souliere

16 Nov - 22 Nov 2020

Léuli Eshrāghi

09 Nov - 15 Nov 2020

TV Moore

02 Nov - 08 Nov 2020

Gutiŋarra Yunupiŋu

26 Oct - 01 Nov 2020

Ivey Wawn

19 Oct - 25 Oct 2020

Naomi Blacklock

12 Oct - 18 Oct 2020

Sancintya Mohini Simpson

05 Oct - 11 Oct 2020

Yhonnie Scarce

28 Sep - 04 Oct 2020

Ruha Fifita

21 Sep - 27 Sep 2020

Kaylene Whiskey

14 Sep - 20 Sep 2020

Adam Linder

07 Sep - 13 Sep 2020

Archie Barry

31 Aug - 06 Sep 2020

Min Wong

24 Aug - 30 Aug 2020

Hayley Millar-Baker

17 Aug - 23 Aug 2020

Erin Coates

10 Aug - 16 Aug 2020

Diego Bonetto

03 Aug - 09 Aug 2020

Tyza Stewart

27 Jul - 02 Aug 2020

Larissa Hjorth

20 Jul - 26 Jul 2020

Louise Zhang

13 Jul - 19 Jul 2020

Henri Papin (Meijers & Walsh)

06 Jul - 12 Jul 2020


29 Jun - 05 Jul 2020

Rainbow Chan

22 Jun - 28 Jun 2020

Jason Phu

15 Jun - 21 Jun 2020

Abdul Abdullah

08 Jun - 14 Jun 2020

Patricia Piccinini

01 Jun - 07 Jun 2020

Brook Andrew

25 May - 31 May 2020


18 May - 24 May 2020

James Tylor