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From The Vault - Australia – your artistic license has been revoked

Sam COOKs KISSmyBLAKartsCOLUMN – November 2005

Australia – your artistic license has been revoked

The days of holding an artistic license without fear of retribution are headed on the fast track to oblivion. While we were busy watching horses run in circles, the Government pulled a swifty in what is surely close to a Guinness World Record [look in the 2006 edition under, shady acts by Government]. Two kinds of history were made that day, the first, to be made into an Aussie “Sea Biscuit” made-for-TV movie, the second, a woeful example of the Anglo-sphere at a heightened state of paranoia.

A state of paranoia that for an Indigenous-Australian wreaks of white supremacy and assimilation flavoured tactics by a colony fearful of being over-run by coffee coloured people. But its more than a paranoia, its now the L_A_W! The Anti-Terror Act really is in essence an act of terror when you think about it. It is a declaration in its legalised form to enable human rights violations to be legitimised through dubious justification and watery fact.

The “BANG - stop or I’ll shoot…WHOOPSY you’re dead” clause AKA shoot to kill, evidences just how vulnerable we have all become. I mean the whole act is so open-ended that you don’t actually even have to be “IN” an act of terror, but “IF” someone thinks you “MIGHT” be, or “IF” you are one day over-heard venting in a drunken stupor saying - Hill Koward, Dhoot Sowner, you could find yourself on a one way trip to the silent land.

And it’s this silencing of any viewpoint that scares the beejeezuz outta me. I mean Allah forbid if we actually dare have an opinion that’s not in favour of the boys club we know as Australian leadership. For me, this is nine times out of ten!!! So ummm does that mean I’m a potential terrorist? The fact that those who I view as my leaders, vocally advocate for international Indigenous self-determination in a time where the “mainstreaming” of our identity is again well underway and really is just the new millennium word for assimilation - does that cast a suspicion over me as someone to be watched? Under the Anti-terrorist Act - well we’ve established it’s a flimsy item – clearly anything goes. But bloody hell, I’m no more a terrorist or a potential terrorist than The Wiggles.

Blakfullas have been thought about already in the act. Actually we have the luxury of being singled out. Specific reference to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, section 23CA (4) (a) of the Criminal Code (Anti-terrorism Act) makes it more than apparent that us mob will be targeted by the new anti-terror laws. I mean we have our OWN reference!!! No one else is THAT special!!! So in a Blakfulla context had this been enforced a few decades earlier, the Blak rights movement of Australia could’ve been a potential massacre. Political prisoners aplenty in THIS scenario!

At a time when we as Aboriginal artists are defining and challenging the Australian cultural landscape, this type of thinking evokes images of an artistic holocaust. Why, because what we have to say as artists, does not align to propaganda or put the Government in a glowing light. It does what it should – challenge, incite, provoke. Our BLAKSTAGE industry is born from this thinking. In its most contemporary form, BLAK theatre history was inspired and created within a civil rights context and has its inspirations in the Marcus Garvey movement. And if Marcus Garvey were around today, that fullas days would be numbered.

However do we take solace that us mob are NOT alone when it comes to the impact on the arts community? We only need to look at what happened to Michael Agzarian to know that its not about consolation, its about all of us coming together around the campfire and fight for our artistic license to be returned. The Government can’t possibly snuff out every artistic statement and if they try, well we’ll simply adapt and worm our way through the underground route. Perhaps Agzarian’s Howard portrait with mouth stitched together could become the Australian authenticity brand, because our arts community should never be subject to censorship, nor should we have our arts funding threatened for not being Government aligned. Artistic partisans unite! This is a call to arms!! Grab your paintbrush, pencils, dij whatever your chosen method of expression and get to making some noise!!!


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