And I for Truth

Part 2 of 3 of my visual sociology for 2019. Take in the flavours of April to June. We start with a look at the architecture of inclusion. Then we go backwards, so you may join me in a feminist retaliation. Let’s then reminisce over racial justice at the Sydney Writers Festival, and think deeply on Aboriginal women’s family bonds through the wonderful play, Barbara and the Camp Dogs. We go on to trace the joys of the Finders Keepers market, the Sydney Comedy Festival, and Peruvian treats. We bear witness to the destruction being imposed by the Adani mine. I also bring you a cornucopia of the sociology of trolleys, and a special guest appearance by the enigmatic Bubsy.

Accessibility in Redfern

Here is the redesign of the entrance to the heritage listed Redfern Station (by builders Gartner Rose). An $100M upgrade was announced in February to address accessibility. The station currently fails to meet standards set by the Disability Discrimination Act. There are only one set of lifts to two of its 12 platforms. Its underground platforms (11 and 12) are considered a significant health risk in the case of fire, second only to Town Hall. 

Redfern Station entrance has large lettering: REDFERN. Yellow, red and brown thin rectangles decorate the exterior. People walk across the road


A close up of the side of my face and neck. I am wearing a rainblow flag lanyard, Frida Kahlo earrings, a black necklace that says "Feminist." I am wearing bright red lipstick and a black top with leaves. You can't see my eyes but I am half-smiling

A colleague received an anonymous rebuke for wearing a feminist brooch and for making an innocuous joke about smashing the patriarchy (described by our incognito pearl-clutcher as “left/right politics”). So on this day, I wore my feminist necklace, my Frida earrings (she’s a Marxist, feminist queer Mexican woman) and my pride Inclusion Month lanyard.

If you carry out, or benefit from, qualitative research (that’s everyone), then feminism has improved your working life. If you think people of all genders should be paid equally and live free from violence, feminism has made this possible.  4 April 2019

Barbara and the Camp Dogs

I’ve thought a lot about Barbara and the Camp Dogs since watching this production, co-written by star Ursula Yovich. Yovich plays the titular Barbara, a talented, fun-loving, but volatile singer who is often hilarious as she is cruel to her sister (Elaine Crombie) who duets in her band. This is a powerful story about strong Aboriginal women and the binds of family disrupted by colonialism and intergenerational trauma.

The sisters reluctantly travel back home to see their mother, as they confront the terror of racism, family separation and illness. Whilst tackling heavy subjects, it is often laugh-out-loud funny. The stage is intimate, with the talented performers singing in between heart-wrenching scenes, with a live band playing. A segment where the sisters travel via a motorbike, which is just a seat behind the band, with the actresses making motorcycle sounds and laughing along with the audience is a testament to the performer’s blistering talent.

Crombie is absolutely beautiful and layered in her portrayal of the patient and loving sister. Yovich will blow you away with an intelligent embodiment of the need for truth-telling and healing between First Nations people and non-Indigenous Australians. This is the second time the Belvoir has hosted this show and it travelled to other cities. The next time this is playing in your town, go and see it with urgency. 12 April 2019

Finders Keepers

The Finders Keepers market is always a blast. Held at Barangaroo and exclusively featuring hand-made art, jewellery, crafts, food and other goods, this is one of the best events in town. Some of the artists I supported by buying their work includes women of colour companies, Liz Lau and Ovazania, as well as a White woman-owned, Denz, and of course, our Sydney local fashion brand, Made590 (didn’t get a good photo of them, sorry, but I did walk out with their clothes on for my evening event).

Bonus: empanadas were devoured. They were to die for. 5 May 2019

Sydney Taste of Peru Festival

In May, I caught a heartbreaking visual that any Peruana would weep over. A sign heralded the “Sydney Taste of Peru Festival” in a dilapidated, abandoned store. Luckily later on in the month, I was able to visit the Latin store, Tierra Latinas, and bought a bunch of precious foods I haven’t seen since my family left Peru.

It was during my lunch break. I rang my Mum in delight and bought goodies for the both of us, including aji amarillo (yellow pepper sauce, a staple in many dishes, including:

  • papa a la huancaina – see my previous visual sociology post for the finished product and drool),
  • Inca Kola  (this saccharine yellow soda is a national icon, *salivates*),
  • chancaca (desiccated sugar cane used to make desserts and sauces),
  • mazamorra morada (cold pudding made from purple corn), and
  • chicha morada (a refreshing drink made from purple corn).

It was curious to see mondongo (made from tripe) in a packet! 10 May 2019

Sydney Comedy Festival

Other than the Gala, which included a mix of entertainers, I only went to see an Aboriginal woman and people of colour at the Sydney Comedy Festival.

Lizzy Hoo is a comedian originally from Brisbane, who is based in Sydney. She was really smart and hilarious! She covers everything from race, to health, family, dating, driving, shark attacks, the tyranny of brunch talk in your 30s, and her mixed heritage. She spoke a lot about her funny and immovable Malaysian-Chinese father, Chan, whom she referred to by his first name throughout, and her Anglo Mum (named, ‘Mum’). She was brilliant in her response to the ubiquitous question close to my heart, “Where are you from?” Go see her!

I also saw Steph Tisdell. She was hilarious talking about trying to make her gynecologist laugh during a pap smear test, using Indigenous humour as protest, and dealing with White guilt as an Aboriginal woman. She was thoughtful and funny about her mental health condition, and yet also had very serious sections in her show where she talked about colonial violence. She ends the show with a clever rap and remarkably gets the audience to own up to hipster racism by singing along! A very unique experience. Keep your eyes out for her and jump at the chance to check her out live

Danny Bhoy was very funny. The overall theme on politics was not especially inspired (Trump is stupid, Brexit sucks). Comedians make similar jokes with no great insight, and they often lack historical context, proclaiming things like, “This is the worst time in history.” It is not, by any measure. (This is also an odd take, given I’ve read he was a history major as an undergraduate student.) But his wry observations, especially of national cultures, and his hysterical deconstruction of the mundane are unparalleled. He had the crowd howling with excruciating detail about the humiliation of standing in line at an airport, having paid a premium to board first on a budget airline. Or the perplexing distinction of smiley faces on British ham.

Witty and absurd, his audience interaction showcases his keen observation skills, whether it’s pointing out his discomfort at noticing two empty seats in the front row, or asking all of us to clarify why our nation celebrates voting with a democracy sausage. (Right? I love this custom, but it’s strange!)

Here’s a summary of the other comedians I saw:

  • Sydney Comedy Gala: Phil Wang, Jamali Maddix, Lauren Pattinson, and Tahir were all standouts. In particular, Fern Brady was funny and tackled feminist themes.
  • Matt Okine: a gifted storyteller, the show addressed racism head on. An extended joke about how ‘political correctness is ruining comedy’ was tired and self-conscious. This is easily the least interesting way in which comedians defend their right to maintain the status quo (‘Don’t punch down! What does that even mean?’) This aside, his comedy is engrossing and smartly timed.
  • Lawrence Leung: affable elongated stories, mostly self-effacing. A long segment about Leung marrying a White woman to defy racist stereotypes of Asian men having to marry Asian women, was awkward and lacked self-awareness. He argued that he was, by definition, living proof of anti-racism because he was in an interracial relationship. He completely misses the mark about gender, power and sexual racism. The rest of the show was fun.
  • Melanie Bracewell: highly interactive with the audience in a confined space, and quick witted in response to a few drunken comments, Bracewell runs a tight ship. Her reflections on being a big-name comedian in New Zealand and coming down a few pegs in Australia were equally funny and full of heart.
  • Aaron Chen: deeply impressive, he interweaved stories of his idiosyncratic view of the world, with intelligent but hilarious reflections about race and racism in Australia. Super gracious when a baby’s cries from the audience continually drowned him out (‘My youngest heckler!’)
  • Jay Pharoah: energetic and highly likeable, his stories of Hollywood stardom were engaging, but his reflections on being a young single dad to an autistic son were loving and funny. Less likeable were his jokes about why he doesn’t date Black women. In particular, he reproduced racist sexism about women from Africa, even though he had called out and various Nigerian Australian women had at first proudly identified themselves in the audience. They were unimpressed with this characterisation of African women as backwards and unattractive, especially given he had deliberately and correctly commented on the weirdness of looking out into a majority White audience. In connection, a few boisterous White women kept interrupting him, ‘I want to have your babies! You’re hot.’ I’ve never seen this happen to a White male comedian and the race dynamics were gross.

06-18 May 2019


The Adani coal mine is set to destroy the land of the Wangan and Jagalingou people, traditional owners of the Galilee Basin in Queensland. It will degrade the environment, kill engendered species and pollute groundwater. The mine will contribute to further climate change through carbon emissions and draining billions of litres of water. This sign of solidarity in Newtown. 19 May 2019

Night time street. A large poster on the side of a building is in the shape of a red "stop" sign. It reads #STOP Adani


Newtown is now known as a hipster area; meaning it is increasingly gentrified. Once a majority Aboriginal suburb, its street art tells stories of the migrants and Aboriginal people who remain. The shops selling overly-priced retro knick knacks cater to the affluent students and young White people who now populate the area. Over the years, I’ve found a couple of racist relics being sold as ‘nostalgia,’ including the golliwog image below.
10 June 2019.

Vibrant Parramatta

Like Newtown, Parramatta is another suburb that historically housed many Aboriginal families, and eventually became a site for working class non-English speaking migrants. It remains highly multicultural, however, Aboriginal people are more dispersed. With the state government recently relocating thousands of metro offices to the much cheaper Western region, it’s only a matter of time before this area too becomes gentrified even further. 30 June 2019.

Bite sized visual sociology

Spanish Film Festival

I watched 10 films directed by women and mostly from Latin America. I wrote reviews here and here.

Talk doesn’t make dumplings

A proverb for all ages. The dumpling man is from the famous Din Tai Fung restaurant. 21 April 2019

Sydney Writers Festival

Let the book love begin! 30 April 2019

Corner of a street. White man walking in foreground and other people walk in the background. There is a poster high above the lights showing a mirror with a blue face and red eyes, the symbol of the Sydney Writer's Festival 2019

I DIED for beauty, but was scarce

Adjusted in the tomb,

When one who died for truth was lain

In an adjoining room.

He questioned softly why I failed?

“For beauty,” I replied.

And I for truth—the two are one;

We brethren are,” he said.

And so, as kinsmen met a night,

We talked between the rooms,

Until the moss had reached our lips,

And covered up our names.

– Emily Dickinson

(via Broadway, Sydney). 4 May 2019


Call for all your existential crises. 4 May 2019

Poster in block style, showing a woman, with the lettering: Intellectuals

The Start of Vivid

Vivid Festival, Sydney, Central Station. 29 May 2019

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Vivid Sydney, Central Station.

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Good luck…

…We’re going to need it. 02 June 2019.

For the love of Bubsy

For our penultive visual sociology, let’s marvel over some pictures of our neighbourhood cat, whom I call Bubsy. She is silly and loving and has survived quite a lot of prior maltreatment by her former owners. I haven’t seen her in more than six months. It seems one of my neighbours has adopted her (I hope). Despite the passage of time, the idea of her never fails to fill my heart with joy.

Sociology of Trolleys

Let’s end on some Sociology of Trolleys. Again, for Instagram friends, you’ll know I created this hashtag first to explore the sociology of trolleys (class dimensions in particular) and this has now turned into recurring myrth. Wherever I travel, I chronicle abandoned shopping carts that are far from any supermarket, and even make up stories about how they might have arrived in that spot.

Until next time, have a productive, stress-free and joyful time.

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