Artist & Empire: Facing Britain’s Colonial Past @ The Tate Britain

This article was originally published in the SOAS Spirit, the newspaper of the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, U.K.

Firstly, ‘past’ is a misnomer, no? The tactical use of Britain and not the ‘U.K.’ hides the fact that the empire still continues in Northern Ireland. Interestingly enough, to align with this historiography, there are no exhibits of any aspects of empire in Ireland in the exhibit.

So does the exhibit do what it claims to? To ‘Face’ Britain’s colonial past? Of course not, even though other popular reviews in the media call is daring and blunt and other words associated with bravery. Continue reading

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Commemorating Survival Day, not celebrating Australia Day

Growing up in Australia, I had no idea what an Aboriginal person looked like. There was a boy in one of the parallel classes who was brown, but not with facial features similar to mine, and I remember thinking as a child, ‘is that an Aborigine’? Many years later, while on exchange in France, I introduced myself as an Australian and a Frenchman asked me whether I was Aboriginal.

When my other Australian and New Zealander friends laughed, he realised his mistake and tried to cover it up by saying it was because I look like Cathy Freeman

Cathy Freeman
I mean, I wish I was that babin’ but I’m clearly not.

For either 6 year old me or my 23 year old friend, the common denominator was ignorance. There is such little talked about Indigenous rights, current affairs, or history that it sometimes becomes impossible to know unless you look for it. For my five years of primary education in Australia, I really don’t remember much attention given to talking about Indigenous people at all. This is devastating, of course, because it is an on-going struggle and one that is gaining momentum in a remarkable way. Continue reading