Reporting Back

by
October 1990, no. 125

Reporting Back

by
October 1990, no. 125

The Australian Bicentennial Arts Program has been documented in a collection of review articles recently published by Mead and Beckett. It is a record not only of the wide range of arts activities throughout the year but also of some of the issues which confronted the artists involved.

No, it is not an Aborigine on the front of the Australian Bicentennial Authority’s 1988 Reviews (edited by Sarah Overton). It is Mamadou Dioume as Bhima in Brook’s Mahabharata. And don’t be misled by the Aboriginal colours in a contemporary-primitive motif that hovers in the foreground about the title. The essential problem is, evidently, to appear respectable while affirming a vanquished culture (is there a preferable word?) within an imperial medium.

Acknowledging their images, we already appropriate, pervert and destroy them. They themselves should have a right, you would think, to leap up and complain, to seek to aggravate what Charles Osborne (an Englishman) describes as ‘white Australians’ irrational guilt’. But, if ignored altogether, then they cry out the louder. Hence the black man beneath the emblem, re­calling a delicately, perhaps affectionately effaced Aboriginal presence even while disavowing prejudice.

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