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Fremantle Biennale


Special Activation

Pearls and Blackbirds LIVE Projection

Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour


Kelsey Ashe Giambazi, Film Still, 2019.


Kelsey Ashe Giambazi, Film Still, 2019.


Commissioned by The Fremantle Biennale. Made with Cultural Consultation and Support of the Wangka Maya Pilbara Aboriginal Language Centre.
Supported by The Department of Culture and the Arts (DLGSCI), City of  Fremantle Community Arts Grant, Little Creatures Brewery, Anya Brock Artist.


Photos: Duncan Wright



WA Maritime Museum. Thursday - Sunday.


Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour TIME: Twilight.

'Pearls and Blackbirds' will be projected on to the sails of Pearl Lugger 'Rose F' as it floats in the Harbour. 

Overture by
TAIKO ON Japanese Drummers.

The commercial Pearling Industry of the late 19th century 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.

A special LIVE event in Fremantle's iconic Fishing Boat Harbour acknowledges this important WA  history.


‘Pearls and Blackbirds’, filmed partially underwater in the seas around Fremantle, 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 prostitutes that traversed through the port of Fremantle and Northern WA in the late nineteenth century.   


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.


By enabling visualisation of hidden heritage, ‘Pearls and Blackbirds’ also has the potential to overhaul pre-conceived ideas about our Australian multi-cultural history and assist in displacing dominant accounts through embodiment of new perspectives.

Photo Credit: Duncan Wright

The film was commissioned by The Fremantle Biennale and can be seen at the WA Maritime Museum in Fremantle throughout November 2019.

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