The rescued refugees had to live off what was on the container ship…The Tampa painting

The rescued refugees had to live off what was on the container ship, which because it was headed for Australia was full of fake Italian fashions and pet food by Cameron Hayes, 2002, oil on linen, 66 x 89 inches.

Later still in the year 2002 a container ship has rescued 300 refugees, including women and children, from their sinking wooden boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The refugees’ boat and the container ship were both headed for Australia so the container ship continued toward this destination. However, the Australian Government does not allow the ship to dock because it does not want to accept the refugees. To complicate the situation the ship’s captain will not unload the containers unless the government takes responsibility for the refugees. So the rescued refugees had to live off what was on the container ship, which because it was headed for Australia was full of fake Italian fashions and pet food.

The importers who bought the merchandise are losing money, they fear the imported fashions will go out of fashion and the dog food will go off. So they lobby the Government and convince them to let the ship drop anchor close enough to the shore for them to negotiate with the refugees for the protection and hand over of the merchandise.

On the container ship itself, the refugees are happily adapting to their new environment. They start breaking into the containers to eat the dog food and begin wearing the fake Italian fashions with delighted aplomb. They have made comfortable homes out of the half empty containers, but the diet of pet food has begun to give them a domestic complacency.

Because of the similarities between container houses the mothers have to stay at home and with a metal spoon tap an empty pet food tin so the family can find their way home by following their pet cat. The refugees wait by cat stops to catch a cat home. The empowered and spoilt fattened cats become dangerous when their territory is threatened by new born refugee babies.

Meanwhile the importers and elderly Australian citizens have gathered on the shore. The importers are trying to convince the refugees to sell them their Italian fashions in order to recoup some of their costs. The refugee women and men model the clothes on improvised cat-walks to get the best price and to sell t-shirts with the fashion labels printed on them. The elderly Aussies are demanding some pet food for their beloved starving cats and dogs while still trying to protect their borders with garden hoses.

The scene is clouded with smoke wafting from the barbequing steaks which the refugees are blowing on to the crowd to help them sell sausages to the people on the shore. Pavlovian bells are used to retrain the elderly into welcoming rather than fearing the refugees.

Detail 1

Detail 2

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