Sociology of Rembrandt

This is my sociological reflection over the exhibition, Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age. There was only one woman artist in the exhibition, White Dutch artist Rachel Ruysch. There were no people of colour, except in one landscape depicting slavery of African people, in a work celebrating the growth of Amsterdam. Other than this, no other references to colonialism, even though there was a giant ship in the exhibition and a landscape of Brazil referencing an “outpost.”

There was a painting of the Burghers, a group descendent from Sri Lanka and various European origins, especially Potugese and Dutch, but the exhibition makes no reference to class or race. The term Burgher derives from the Dutch word for “citizen” or “town dweller”, mixed with the French word “bourgeois” which refers to the upper class. The Burghers were actually upwardly mobile middle class who made a good living as merchants and commissioned paintings to reflect their modest wealth. While most were of mixed racial background, they are painted as White.

Finally, in one of the photos you see Rembrandt’s painting “Bust of a Man in Oriental Dress,” depicting a White man wearing a turban – an example of White upper class appropriating the culture and religion of Others, but the exhibition explains this as “exotic looking garb.”The exhibition is excellent, but like many, it whitewashes history and replicates racial, gender and various inequalities by papering over relations of power in art.

The exhibition is on in the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney.

Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age.

[Photos: 1/ woman with long white hair stares at “Bust of a Man in Oriental Dress. 2/ a White man and Asian woman outside the exhibition. 3/ A young man walks towards the camera as other art vistors wander around the gallery. 4/ people take photos of the large paintings on display. 5/ a bald man stares closely at photographs of Rembrandt. 6/ a man and a woman look at a large golden painting featuring architecture. 7/ visitors walk around the busy exhibition.]

Colonial Sugar

“Colonial Sugar,” Tracey Moffatt and Jasmine Togo-Brisby, exhibition at the City Gallery Wellington. From 1863 to 1904, the Queensland government in Australia enslaved at least 62,000 people from the Pacific to fuel production in its prosperous sugarcane plantations. Continue reading Colonial Sugar

Representating Colonisation at the Rocks Discovery Museum

This is the Rocks Discovery Museum. It’s interesting historically as the artefacts tell the story of Sydney prior to European invasion. But it’s more fascinating sociologically – in how this history is represented. The first room you see (“Warrane. Pre-1788”) uses words like “arrival” and “first contact” to describe the relationship between colonialists and traditional custodians of Sydney, the Gadigal people. The second room (“Colony. 1788-1830”) uses words like “settlement” and “colony” prominently… but not *colonialism.* The word “invasion” only appears on a side panel – this display is excellent, reflecting on British treatment of Aboriginal people as a “catastrophe.”

Passion and Procession. The Art of the Philippines

The works on display are by contemporary artists, some of whom also work in Australia. The artists explore the interlocking influences of religiosity and social activism on modern politics and colonial forces. Continue reading Passion and Procession. The Art of the Philippines

Bangarra: Eora – Bennelong

Eora – Bennelong by Bangarra Dance Theatre.

This installation for Vivid Festical was on the side of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge. A breathtaking dance and art concept. Continue reading Bangarra: Eora – Bennelong

Racism and Sexism in the Media

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Rugby star Sam Thaiday (above) who is Torres Strait Islander, made a sexist and racist comment during The Footy Show, a very popular, long-running TV show that is dominated by White male athletes and comedians who are infamous for racism and sexism. Thaiday “joked” that he once had dated “dark women” as part of a “jungle fever phase” that he then grew out of (his wife is a White Australian woman, with whom he has children).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander commentators, artists and researchers were swift to condemn Thaiday’s words. Their activism was effective: they called on action from Deadly Choices, an Indigenous-led health initiative in Queensland that promotes Thaiday as one of their key ambassadors. This led initially to a statement denouncing Thaiday’s damaging message, and today they announced that Thaiday was removed as their ambassador. Continue reading Racism and Sexism in the Media

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

“Secret histories” of Australia

Ongoing human rights crimes have been committed against Indigenous Australians, starting with their dispossession and decimation within the first few years of European colonialism. Featured here are six historical incidents. Continue reading “Secret histories” of Australia

Displacement of Indigenous Australians

The Australian Government is getting ready to displace Indigenous Australians living in over 150 remote communities in Western Australia, in a bid to save money. Rather than fixing existing social services, Indigenous Australians will be forced to move from their homes. This poorly conceived policy is nothing short of colonial violence, by dispossessing our traditional land owners from their homes. Continue reading Displacement of Indigenous Australians

Colonisation: 99 Year Township Lease

This is another invasion; this is another colonisation, another approach of taking over everything. You know you cannot sell land for something, the land is so precious you cannot do that.

– Reverend Gondarra, respected Arnhem Land elder.

Gondarra is fighting the Government’s push to take control of Indigenous communities through a “99 year township lease.” Gondarra evokes a critique of Australia’s colonial laws, which dispossessed the traditional landowners for much of Australia’s history (and which continues in various ways to this day). Continue reading Colonisation: 99 Year Township Lease