Cartes de Visite Album series#1: Restricted Lives, 1901-1920 is a display of facial identity maps of Dadour’s Syrian Great Grandfather and Great Grandmother sourced from documents in the National Australian Archives that record proof of identity and character under the ‘White Australia Policy’. Placed in the pages of the Carte de Visite Album are post-mortem photographs or memorial portraiture that provided the middle class with a means for memorializing dead loved ones.
By placing the images of her family in the context of a Carte de Visite Album Dadour is parodying a convention of the time that gave status to only middle class white European people. During the same period as these cards were popular her family were defined as non-white and consequently experienced the discriminatory practices of the time that was intended to restrict their lives.
Dadour attempts to transform images and documents into aesthetic objects of value, awarding her family the status denied them by the government and society, thus, re-defining and re-imagining a personal and collective narrative.
The current debates around migration make it imperative to not forget the memory of our past.
The Dadour’s were educated middle class people and had been residing in Australia since 1886 after migrating from Mount Lebanon in the Middle East. In 1901, they were given the status of non-white immigrants under the White Australia Policy and were therefore subjected to the humiliation of proof of identity and worthiness testing. For business reasons they needed to travel overseas, but to enable them to return to Australia an imprint of their left hand proving their identity, along with a multitude of references endorsing their good character was required. Only the presentation of these documents would exempt them from undertaking the Dictation Test as part of the Immigration Restriction Act 1901. The overall aim of this and other related legislation was to limit non-white immigration to Australia.
The following text of a reference is an example of the extreme racism common at this time-
Department of External Affairs 1911-
‘Mr Dadour’s father and mother were Turks from Constantinople and therefore he is a Turk-Armenian European, not an Asiatic. He says he can read and write 6 languages. The Customs authorities state that they have known Mr Dadour for some years and are satisfied that he is not a Syrian’.
White Australia Policy