History, I mean his story like so many others, circulate exclusively through oral traditions. Constituting a mere 2% of the population, his is a story an outsider may never know. Societal issues that epitomize injustice, however, naturally become the material of urban artists everywhere, who take what's happening in the street and project it to the masses. The most sincere and emotionally charged work stems from this adversity.
Last year I traveled to Australia for a conference and, to no surprise, found myself drawn to a culture I knew little about. In one of the most memorable exhibits I've ever witnessed, at the GOMA in Brisbane, I walked through galleries that took me on a journey of the violent history of Australia's indigenous peoples. Similar to Native Americans, Aboriginals--as the native people of Australia--became victims of their aggressive colonizers. Loss of their land was nothing in comparison to the lives lost and the social and legal inequality that ensued.
In 2008, in a long overdue acknowledgement of mistreatment, the then prime minister Kevin Rudd issued the Apology to Australia's Indigenous Peoples. He apologized for the atrocities inflicted on the Aboriginals, that resulted in the displacement of families, gaps in educational achievement and economic opportunity. Perhaps more disheartening are the Aboriginal children today, of mixed race, known as the Stolen Generation who are victims of the absurd methods of eugenics. At only 2% in one of the world's most homogenous societies, their culture has battled countless attempts to be completely erased, but whose resilience has proven otherwise. The word "sorry" is certainly a start, but, as expressed by Aboriginal artist, Tony Albert "Sorry is just a word, it's the aftermath which actually means something."
Click on the links below to hear from the Aboriginal artists themselves:
"Initially people often resist forgiveness, it appears like it is something hard... where the opposite is true, it's about getting your power back." Bindi Cole, Wathaurung peoples. I Forgive You, 2012.
"Hopefully [the film] disempowers the stereotypes and dismantle them, which is how racism...defends itself." Richard Bell, Kamilaroi peoples. Scratch on Aussie, 2008.
"Looking back at our early contact, the relationships between White people and the Aboriginal people...continues today." Michael Cook, Bidjara peoples. Civilised #6, 7, 8, 10, 2012.
"I'm interested in what maps represent and what language is always indicative of, and it is always indicative of the dominant culture." Megan Cope, Quandamooka peoples. Fluid Terrain, 2012.
"People often have attitudes about black Aboriginal women, so they come to you with a construct already and it's very hard to break that construct down and say no, I'm not like that, I'm like this." Fiona Foley, Badtjala peoples Wondunna clan. Black Velvet, 1996.