Lata Upadhyaya: Populate or Perish

Populate or Perish

Make it easier, help build Australia, bring out a Briton
By Lata Upadhyaya

A series of work by Lata Upadhyaya based on the experiences of migrants that left the UK to start a new life in Australia, representing their real life experience of each stage. Following World War II, 1.5 million people left the UK for Australia as Ten Pound Poms in what was one of history’s largest planned immigrations, between 1947 and 1972.

Populate or Perish was the slogan the Australian government used to justify the large intake of migrants, needed to fill labour shortages and to bolster its small population and its sense of vulnerability. Ten pounds was the adult fee, covering the cost of ocean travel and immigration, children under 19 travelled for free. Pom is the slang word that Australians use for Brits, hence the label Ten Pound Poms.

For this commission, Lata Upadhyaya researched individual experiences from the period, focussing on those who traveled in the earlier years of the scheme, and left the UK via the Port of Tilbury. The artist called out via families based in the UK and also tracked people down in Australia. Through the work, she captured the essence of their migration, their own personal experience of departing, traveling and settling into life in Australia, and often the difficult decision of deciding to return and then for some, going back again.

Each stage has been packaged into a clear suitcase, symbolising the motion of the journey and the indefinite significance these journeys continue to have on their lives.  Some objects within are authentic, some are recreated, and others are symbolic. They are all significant.

Lata would like to thank Essex Cultural Diversity Project for commissioning this work, and heartfelt thanks go to all of the migrants and families that shared their experiences.

Populate or Perish

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