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Captured in ink

This wonderful caricature gives us a snapshot of the life of Mr Antonio Giordano. We believe it depicts him returning from labour at one of the internment camps he was held in during the Second World War.

Antonio was an Italian journalist who came to Australia in 1924 when he was 17 years old. After the outbreak of the Second World War he often wrote in his column in the Italo Australiano of his hope that Italy would not enter the war. Italy did and Antonio was arrested as an ‘enemy alien’ in 1940. He spent the next four years in internment camps at Orange and Hay in NSW and at Loveday in South Australia.

Image: Antonio Giordano's passportAs many of Antonio’s possessions were taken by the police when he was interned many of the documents he gave to the Migration Museum date from during or after his internment. There are a number of drawings among the documents, some by Antonio himself and some by his friends. Sometimes I think caricatures or drawings give us an insight that a photo can not reveal. This picture is full of personality and gives me a sense of the strength of character that got Antonio through his internment.

Antonio went on to become an important figure in South Australia’s community. He worked as a timber cutter, a journalist, an interpreter, a restaurateur, in Italian-Australian commerce, club soccer, and migrant welfare. He also wrote and contributed to several books on early Italian naval explorers who travelled through the Asia-Pacific region.

Antonio gave the Migration Museum a collection of his documents in the early 1980s and they were put into the research files. It was not until some time after his death in 1984 that curator Kate Walsh came across them and, realising their significance, transferred them to the Migration Museum collection. This is a good example of how the significance of seemingly ‘ordinary’ objects can become more important when we look back on them in the context of a broader history.

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