Displaced Women - Precious Things

20 November 2013
Written by Sacha Kenny | Images by Sacha Kenny
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Sharing one from the archives, Sacha Kenny revisits her university graduating project and shows a series of portraits titled Displaced Women, Precious Things


In 2000 I undertook my final year of a Bachelor of Visual Arts in photojournalism at Queensland College of Art, Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia.

Our final year was primarily assessed on one year-long project.  This project was to incorporate research, sourcing, connecting and photographing subjects relevant to the topic of the project. My chosen topic was Displaced Women – Precious Things.

Immigration was a hot topic in Australia in the late 1990s, the influx of refugees, particularly illegal refugees making their way into the country by boat dominated the media.  The war in Yugoslavia had been raging for almost 10 years, which again resulted in the arrival of many displaced refugees to Australia and the race debate concerning reconciliation and the push for the then government to issue an apology  to the Stolen Generations of indigenous children occupied a high profile in national media.  

Displacement also, at the time, represented where I found myself. I had left New Zealand when I was twenty and found myself ten years later, having lived and travelled the world living in a city that I didn’t really feel much of a connection with, as beautiful a city as it is I never really found my place and at times definitely felt a displacement.

I began thinking about what, in times of displacement, women hold dear.  Obviously putting a value on material things has a certain amount of irrelevance when compared to emotional ties but material things can often hold great emotional value – especially for those who have had to leave everything behind.

My journey took me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to spend time with some unique women. I spent time with Yugoslavian refugees, both Serbian and Muslim and finding their way in a place very foreign to them, away from extended families and often the familiar ways of small communities and villages that many had left behind. Then there were the Somalian refugees who, apart from dealing with being a world away from their homeland, had to learn to deal with being black in a very white city. I spent time with drug addicts who felt disconnected from society; an Aboriginal woman who, because of the lightness of her skin, felt neither black nor white; a young homeless woman who, after being kicked out of home, had lived on the streets before moving into a community youth home; a grandmother living in a remote caravan park, disconnected from her family; as well as many more diverse women.

Although there is a sadness that comes with displacement, years later and upon relfection I think all would agree that life is a journey and times of disconnection can often lead to great moments of connection.

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0 #1 Mike Lilley 2013-12-16 19:51
Nice article Sacha. Very thoughtful and beautiful portraits. I would like to see more of your work.

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