Wednesday 7 September 2011

Wayne Quilliam, you made the shit list

I was going to leave Wayne for a later time.  He is actually quite a talented photographer.  I've really liked some of his work, but, he's crossed that same line.  A white guy trying to speak out for black guys.

This is Wayne:-

Wayne is a highly acclaimed Indigenous Photographer.  In fact, he won the 2009 NAIDOC Artist of the Year.  He has gone from strength to strength, award to award and sweetly funded position to even more sweetly funded position.  All with the help of one little word, Indigenous. We must congratulate Wayne though, on his recent appointment as Adjunct Professor of RMIT.  That would have never happened though, without those 'Indigenous Connections', let us not forget that.

Due to being white, he apparently does have a really interesting viewpoint in his new role.  From his own words regarding his new appointment:-

“Twenty five years of working in rural, remote and urban Indigenous communities in Australia and overseas has given me a unique perspective regarding the visualisation of our people.  Fortunately, an earlier decision to remain impartial and politically neutral allows me the freedom to be a conduit between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.  This freedom will see me living with and photographing a remote community with no running water or fresh food one day and the next delivering a key note address to the country’s top CEO’s at a five star hotel”.

Yes, the burden of the White Aborigine is difficult to bear.  I can only imagine Wayne, I can only imagine.  How anyone can watch their 'brother' go without, take a few snaps and then cozy up in a 5 star (heaven forbid, should it be a 4 star or less!) hotel and reassure CEO's that yes, they are helping, and yes, things are being done.

Could it be true?  Does Australia have its very own Kevin Carter?

Lets just hope that when the heartbreaking photos come to light (and likely win an Indigenous Art Award) that those who go without fresh food and running water every single day aren't treated as an object of art, but, we wake up as a  nation to the reality of what is going on behind the media screen.

Oh, before I forget.  Wayne,  you aren't getting off that lightly.  You have taken it upon yourself to speak up for the black man too.

A recent ADF scandal involving a young man by the name of Sam Borrett, who posted the following charming comment on his Facebook page:-

“was going through a few magazines at the local abo shelter, was having soooooo (sic) much fun until the rifle jammed”

saw Wayne Quilliam, a former Navy Serviceman on top of all his other incredible achievements, say the following when the journos came to him for comment:-

“The funny thing is, when I read (Sam Borrett)’s comment, and when I was sent that racist comment, I sort of sat back and tried to recall whether it was like that when I was there. And it wasn’t,” 

Wayne, I don't imagine you've had to deal with much racism because of the colour of your skin.  Pretending you knew what it was like for black skinned men in the late 70's and 80's is not cool.  Just because the journo doing the story was too lazy to do their research and find out you aren't black skinned, and, random strangers would not identify you as indigenous, does not make your comments valid.  I can no more talk about how life was for women in the 80's (being a man and all) than you can talk about how black skinned people endured racism in your day.  What you experienced would be a massive gulf between.  Don't let that fact escape you Wayne, it will keep you grounded, and, honest.

Hopefully.  I can always hope...right?

Why this blog?

I decided to find the time to enter the realm of the bloggers after being snubbed.  That sort of thing has a way of making you angry enough to go to a little more effort than you normally would.  You see, I committed a cardinal sin apparently.  I saw offence in a piece of artwork and tried to speak up. 

This piece, in particular:-

The artist in question, Bindi Cole, is front and centre.  Notably, a woman with white skin whose entire family has decided to paint themselves in minstrel make-up and adorn headscarves as if to portray themselves as Aboriginal Elders.  All in an effort apparently to stymie those people who, when told by Ms Cole that she is Aboriginal, always reply 'but, not really Aboriginal'.

I hate to cast aspersions on any persons talent, real or imagined, but controversy in itself is not art.  It reads instead like a prank gone wrong, a hit and a big miss at social commentary, and if the 'artist' in question didn't claim to have Aboriginal Heritage, the outrage, quite rightly, would have been enormous.  The urban art scene fainted in joy at her 'boldness' and talent.  At every opening of gushing urbanites, it was a sea of white skin. 

If Ms Cole truly understood the offence that blackface causes to those people who, unlike her, have black skin, this piece of 'art' would not exist.  I have seen many beautiful pieces of photography that I would class as art.  This is not one of them.

Putting her foot in it even further, Ms Cole goes on to claim (in her accompanying notes to her work that were submitted for, and won, a $25k Indigenous Art prize) that there are no full-blooded Aborigines left in Victoria. Being that I am actually black skinned and an Aborigine from Victoria whose family lineage research thus far has established I am a 'full-blood', I am puzzled. Has Ms Cole traced all Victorian Aboriginal genealogies? Is she a self-appointed expert on the matter, or did she hope to slip that one under the radar and hope nobody would notice?

I asked for a retraction of her statement and an apology.  I am still waiting for the dignity of a reply.  Somehow, I imagine one will not be forthcoming.  I am more than happy to prove my heritage and stand behind what I say, funnily, Ms Cole is not at all interested in opening a dialogue.  She wields power in the community, being that she is part of a fast growing group of coddled and entitled White Aborigines who have found favour with other White Skinned Aboriginies in important Indigenous Identified positions throughout Bureaucratic Australia.

So, this blog is my outlet, to share my encounters with people like Ms Cole, and all the other people who use Aboriginality as a way to further their careers, whilst exploiting the very people they claim to represent.  My way to feel like I have a voice, as a black skinned Aboriginal man who feels ignored by the very people who are purporting to represent him, but in essence, do not.