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Gentrification: the sugar sphinx next door
24 Jun 2014
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Description
This photo is of the reflections made after people visited Kara Walker's exhibition at the Domino sugar factory in New York. The sphinx like woman made out of sugar looks over smaller child figures made of molasses, that are carrying baskets of other broken sugar children. The smell in the old sugar refinery is sickly, of burned sugar, a strong sensory reminder of the guts wrenching history of slavery in America's sugar industry. The building itself will soon be demolished, and the surrounding suburbs are changing fast with new developments, skyrocketing rent. Many people that I have spoken to are conflicted about the change because while they enjoy the safer streets of new NYC, they also mourn the loss of the old character, and wonder if they will be able to afford to stay.

FCAC'S basement theater was once the CSR sugar theater, in a similarly industrial area, the plaque is still in the basement. Our own sugar industry in Australia, particularly QLD was also built on what some people call 'indentured labour' or ' blackbirding', essentially, it was a slave trade in workers from the Pacific islands. Many Australians don't know much about that, including me, because it is not, to my knowledge, taught in school or discussed often.

Seeing so many parallels between Footscray and the way that industry, development and migration has affected NYC, is an uncanny experience. I went to a house party in Crown Heights that night, which is still considered to be a rough neighborhood. The apartment was brand new, shared by 4 young professional African -Americans. When we spoke about how the neighborhoods were changing, we all had to admit, that we were part of that shift in our own way. This can be an uncomfortable conversation, but it is one that has defined my experience in New York.
Tags
Arts and Activism Arts and Working Life Community Cultural Development Exhibition Public Art
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