Asian influence in Australia was evident during the various gold rushes, which started around 1850, when many Chinese joined the scramble from America and Europe to find instant riches.
Regardless of nationality, it was a hard life, many prospectors travelling with a hand made wheelbarrow filled with their basic necessities, struggling over rough terrain, where even water was often not available.
Many Chinese assumed a supportive role to other miners by supplying them with basic groceries and also by growing vegetable gardens, either near mining settlements or on sheep and cattle stations.
Without their input, life would have been much more difficult for settlers and itinerants.
At about the time of the gold rush in Australia, another wave of Asian immigrants arrived, this time from the Indian continent, mostly from Afghanistan.
They introduced working camels to outback settlements and stations and helped to open routes for the transport of bales of wool to southern markets and the return of perishable goods to those living in isolated situations.
Click each image, below, to enlarge.
These three small. mixed media paintings on canvas reflect on
the important, but often forgotten, role that Afghan, Indian, Turkish
and Egyptian cameleers played in opening up the ‘outback’ of Australia. Often lonely, they helped to establish townships and supply routes and supported the gold
and pastoral industries during the late nineteenth century.
Such a harsh life would probaby have been made more bearable by their religious beliefs. Five times each day they would unfold their worn, embroidered prayer mats, which they carried on their camels, face them towards Mecca, kneel down and pray. How comforted they must have felt by performing that regular routine on their special mats.
With the establishment of the White Australia Policy in 1900 and the beginnings of train and truck road transport systems, many left their 'Ghan camps situated on the edge of towns and returned to Asia.
But camels kept breeding and today are considered a pest as they decimate country by eating everything within reach of their long necks. They can also survive quite long periods without water, a benefit in the harsh days of exploration of the Australian inland.
There is also a move to establish an industry based on the sale of meat from these free roaming animals or perhaps to restrict their movements by fencing them in. Considerations such as the distance to markets must also be a factor in such business decisions.
Check out this Asian Century exhibition.