"Esky" first exhibited in Australianiality, Holmes a Court gallery, Perth, 2018.
Kumanara, a term that features in the Western Desert langauages including Pitjantjatjarra, Yankunytjatjarra and Ngaanyatjarra, is used in place of a word that can’t be mentioned for reason that it will offend, that is, it signifies a taboo.
When the European colonisers pushed north into the land they came to call Canada, they encountered a peoples known to their neighbours further south, as “Eskimo”. Meaning “to lace a snow shoe”. The colonisers liked this name, they could pronounce it easily, and it stuck. Accordingly, the term was considered by many to be pejorative, a moniker of oppression, and in 1982 the Canadian Constitution act writ that officially these people should be known as they would ordinarily call themselves, “Inuit”.
In 1952, 30 years prior to the Canadian Constitution Act, and 15000km away, someone invented a tub to cool beers, and called it an “Eski”, after “Eskimo”.
I asked an Inuit friend of mine about the word, and she said: “’Eskimo’ isn’t offensive to me. I find myself calling myself and older Inuit “Eskimos”. Some find it offensive because the name was given to us (Like the E-numbers. Inuit were given dog tags because to the white people who came, Inuit names were too hard to pronounce). But I personally rise above and reclaim it. You don’t get to offend me on something I’ve claimed as my own now.
This artwork describes the reality of systemic racism. We are the inheritors of a system founded by colonisation, and within this system there is evidence of the values needed to seize and maintain power. Other power struggles are similarly evident. Be aware.
Note: benign synonyms for “Eski” include “ice box”, and “chilly bin”, pronounced “chully bun” (NZ)