John Mateer

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Katanning / Cocos Islands John Mateer

28 October – 22 December, 2013 | on-going in 2014

The Quiet Slave is an installation and research project realised as a historically accurate fiction set on the Indian Ocean islands during the early 19th century.

It describes the first years of settlement on the Cocos-Keeling Islands, located between Perth and Sri Lanka, through the eyes of Rosie, a female Malay slave belonging to the controversial Englishman Alexander Hare. Uncovering the origins of the Malay community of the Cocos-Keeling Islands, the project restores a sense of its place both in the history of the South-East Asian slave trade and in the British Empire.

The work consists of the story The Quiet Slave: A history in eight episodes presented as a book in John Mateer’s original English and in Malay translation by Singaporean Nur-El-Hudda Jaffar; a re-presentation of the section that deals with Stamford Raffle’s meeting with Napoleon on St Helena in the Jawi/Arabic-Malay translation by Islamic scholar Alfian Kuchit; and a 20-minute audio piece dramatising, in several voices of the Cocos-Malay community of Katanning, the crisis that precipitated the Malay slaves being abandoned by Alexander Hare on the islands nearly two centuries ago.

The Quiet Slave reminds us that language, as much in the fading material of its script, as in its quiet narrative, is the basis of community and history.



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