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History, Fate and Destiny

Date: 1994
Dimensions:
Overall: 495 x 830 x 340 mm, 8.8 kg
Medium: Clay, leather, string, copper, gold, metal
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Art
Object Name: Sculpture
Object No: V00019948
Place Manufactured:Sydney

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    Description
    'My refugee boats are an interpretation of my direct experience when leaving Vietnam. The three boats, History, Fate and Destiny symbolise the delicate uncertainty of the captive human struggle in the sea of life.'
    - Thi Nguyen, artist

    Thi Nguyen was only 12 years old when in 1987 she and her family took to sea in a small fishing boat to escape oppression in Vietnam. They spent two and a half years in a Hong Kong camp before being allowed to migrate to Australia. 'History Fate and Destiny' was created by Thi for her 1994 Higher School Certificate examination at Burwood High School.

    The three boat sculptures have been created from different materials which represent her family's perilous voyage. The largest vessel ‘History’ is for Nguyen a symbol of Vietnamese culture and the past.
    SignificanceThi Nguyen's scultpure 'History, Fate, Destiny' is a significant presonal representation of her experience migrating from Vietnam to Australia in the late 1980s.
    History'History, Fate, Destiny' is a sculpture comprising three Vietnamese refugee boats. It was made by Thi Nguyen who at 12 years of age fled Vietnam with her parents and 25 relatives in a small fishing boat. After a stay of two and a half years in a Hong Kong refugee camp, the family was finally able to migrate to Australia.

    Seven years after leaving Vietnam, Nguyen created ‘History, Fate, Destiny’ for her 1994 Higher School Certificate examination. The sculpture was then chosen for the exhibition Art Express, organised by the NSW Department of School Education, and travelled to six regional art galleries in the state.

    Nguyen's selection of materials has been influenced by the works of two Australian artists, Mona Ryder and Ian Gentle. The unusual materials used to build the boats give each one a unique quality. ‘History’, the largest of the three boats, is modelled from unpainted clay bound with leather, string, bands of writing and adorned with gold chains. A gas ring serves as the support for the boat. ‘History’ for Nguyen is symbolic of Vietnamese culture and the past.

    Also made from clay, ‘Fate’ is delicately interwoven with twigs, sticks and leather thronging. Two small clay hands are helplessly caught up in the construction. ‘Fate’ embodies the fears and desperation experience by the refugees.

    The third boat, ‘Destiny’, appears as a more conventional and seaworthy craft. The sail is made from a Russian map of eastern Siberia. Inside the boat is a makeshift lamp and chicken bones. The found objects show the innovative spirit of the refugees. They had to adapt to survive not only the long and hazardous sea voyage but also their new country. ‘Destiny’ suggests survival. Together the three boats tell a powerful story about the traditions, fear and endurance of Vietnamese boat people.
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