New Old Prayers is a collaborative project between siblings Sancintya Mohini Simpson and Isha Ram Das which reframes colonial histories and perspectives on Indian indenture in the colony of Natal (now KwaZulu–Natal, South Africa) through an interactive sound installation and experimental sound performance.

Simpson and Das address this colonial archive, by creating what they consider to be a new archive, around a culturally specific framework that is based on the oral traditions, rather than written or photographed by a colonial lens. With oral histories as a key cultural framework, they are interested in creating an oral and non-oral archive of sounds – and developing both an experimental performance and interactive sound installation based on this. This archive will be made from songs sung during indenture, the sounds labourers would have heard, and other environmental elements. They are new prayers, songs and rituals, that create a space for another perspective through which to view these histories.


Working with family: Sancintya and Isha discussed what it’s like collaborating with family. Read the full discussion HERE


Norman Park Substation


24 May – 22 June 2020


Sancintya Mohini Simpson

Sancintya Mohini Simpson’s practice addresses the impact of colonisation on the historical and lived experiences of her family, and more broadly traces the movements and passages of indentured labourers from India to South Africa during the late 1800’s and throughout the early 1900’s. Her interdisciplinary practice draws on the archive to explore the complexities of migration, memory and trauma. Simpson’s work moves between painting and video, to poetry and performance, developing narratives and rituals, which she uses to navigate family history, and embed wider narratives surrounding the Indian indenture diaspora community. 

Artist website: http://sancintya.com

Isha Ram Das

Isha Ram Das is a composer and sound artist, whose work marries contemporary electronic practices with the instrumentation found in traditional Indian music and ritual. His work incorporates experimental sounds, techniques and compositions into performances, installations and recordings. These elements allow for a considered exploration of both his familial and own cultural displacement. In collaboration with sibling Sancintya Mohini Simpson, Das responds to this history of displacement, in which his ancestors were taken from India to South Africa and work as indentured labourers during the late 1800’s and throughout the early 1900’s to create an ongoing oral archive through performance. 

Artist website: https://isharamdas.com