Lindy Lee, The Market Gardener and the Restaurateur
Artist Statement –
“His gaze meets ours, deep and clear and steady. In his face I see sadness, resignation, determination. Resilience. Tiy Sing, a Kogerah market gardener who prospered enough to buy his own truck, is hoping to make a trip home to China and, with this document, be allowed re-entry to Australia on his return.
I am captivated by his ID photo: a single unknowable instant in a person’s life. His gaze invites us to be curious, to seek beyond the surface reality of paper and print, to witness his interiority. I understand the significance of this document because recently, I came across my grandfather Lee Foy’s own Certificate of Exemption from the Dictation Test. Tiy Sing and Lee Foy, born two years apart, were contemporaries in Sydney in the early 1900s. Perhaps Tiy Sing sold produce to my grandfather, who owned a Chinese restaurant called The Red Rose in Lidcombe. But even if they didn’t know each other, still they were fellow travellers.
Because they’d been residents of Australia prior to the introduction of the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901, otherwise known as the White Australia Policy, both Tiy Sing and Lee Foy were entitled to Exemptions from the cunningly cruel Dictation Test. Newly arrived Chinese, however, faced this test. In order to pass and be permitted entry, they had to write 50 words in any European language not necessarily English, it could be Italian, or Lithuanian as specified and dictated by an immigration officer. A perfect piece of racist spite on the part of the Australian government.
In 1973, one hundred years after Tiy Sings birth, the White Australia policy was finally dismantled. I was 19 years old then. These certificates exemplify the oppressive rules of exclusion in Colonial Australia but the tentacles of racism reach into our present era.” – Lindy Lee
Lindy Lee’s The Market Gardener and the Restaurateur is featured in “No Point in Time”, curated by Dr Geoff Raby AO.