A Fictional Family History
Produced by Rahima Hayes
First installed at the Gin Gin Regional Art Gallery
I once came across a pile of family albums in a bin when I was visiting my mother in Switzerland. A surprising contrast to the sour smelling bags—a pile of hand bound books, dusty and yellowed. I gasped in horror and ran to get Mum to help me—desperate to retrieve them before the garbage collectors.
I sat for days pouring over this treasure, which travelled the paths of family life and photography—from fat cheeked babies in old fashioned perambulators rendered still and sweet in cracked black and white, to the long-legged summer holiday colours taking the growing clan into the 1970’s.
I knew I couldn’t bring all of the albums home to Australia, the stack of them reached close to my waist, so, reluctant to relegate them to the trash I carefully picked the images out of their bindings for safekeeping.
For years I wondered why I was so concerned that this documentation of a warm and full family life had been discarded? Why had I sat, head bent, prying the images loose until my shoulders got sore? What was it about these people, none of whom I knew, from a country that wasn’t my home, which compelled me?
It came to me much later—it was just an extension for my knack for adopting the unwanted. My Dad calls my predilection for acquiring people, ‘bringing home waifs and strays’—it’s become a family joke, but really it’s a family trait; he introduces my friend Tess to people as his ‘adopted daughter’. She has her own family but over the years we’ve claimed her as one of us. And she’s far from being the only one.
So I’ve decided they need a story, Famille Inconnue*, and that I am going to ask us all to craft one together. From the colour we think their eyes might have been, to the ways they fell in love, to their favourite foods and the moments, happy, sad, exciting and monotonous, that have shaped their lives. It will be imagined, sure, but I feel like it will breathe live into them, that they will no longer be famille inconnue gathering dust in my bottom drawer.