Scratched Tobacco Tins

East Kimberley

Scratched tobacco tin, 2016

Scratched Tobacco Tins is an accumulating work about the scratched tobacco tins that circulate in the towns of remote north-west Australia.

A few years ago the Australian government forced tobacco companies to put warnings and images of tobacco related health ailments on their products. In remote Western Australia most of the old people in the town that I live in have chewed tobacco for most of their lives and they also can’t read. Nearly every tobacco tin in town has had its image meticulously scratched off; the text remains, unread. These scratched tobacco tins are a treasured everyday object. They circulate from hand to hand, holding tobacco, medicinal ashes, fishhooks or coins, until their rust turns them to dust. They signify place—as both geographic and demographic markers. They are central to one community but unseen by most others. And to me these scratched tobacco tins speak of a very subtle yet pertinent disregard for government or perhaps, more specifically, for the process of governmentality and its deep ties with colonisation.

The first public iteration of the work appeared as video, photography and text online in Runway’s WEST#31 edited by Miriam Kelly. Watch it here.