Vernon Ah Kee, “Not an Animal or a Plant”

Gallery 1:  This exhibition deals with the ongoing impact of colonialism on the way in which Australian culture perceives Aboriginal Australians. It has only been 50 years since the 1967 Referendum, which amended two racist articles from our Constitution. First, the changes allowed Parliament to make laws about Indigenous people, and second, the Census could now count Indigenous people. The title of this exhibit reflects that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were not seen as fully human people for much of our history and that this view prevails. Amongst the many powerful portraits seen here is “Tall Man.” Other works include the famous piece “Unwritten” and the graffiti drawn on toilet doors, “Born in this Skin.”


Gallery 2: This Sydney Festival exhibition explores Indigenous experiences of racism and national politics. The artist says: “A lot of the problem this country has with Aboriginal people is that it struggles to see Aboriginal people as fully human.” The works seen here include “brutalities” (three paintings with black, red and white); “Rush to Judgement” and “Waltzing Matilda” (two word-based works referring to the Palm Island protests and the Cronulla riots); and “Lynching II” alongside “Lynching

Video 1: a series of large sketches of various Indigenous Australians, mostly faces in a large gallery space with wooden floors and stark white walls. A woman member of the public sits on the ground crossed legged and is sketching in one room. Another space shows a series of toilet doors with graffiti including various racist comments.

Video 2: a large open gallery space with wooden floors and stark white walls. The camera pans around the room where large oil paintings hang on the walls, featuring Indigenous faces, mostly men; abstract paintings seen from afar, and two paintings with words as described above. Various surf boards are suspended from the ceiling; on one side they are black with red lines symbolic of traditional Indigenous art, and on the other they are black with white writing