Museum Crawling: Australian Edition

The Aboriginal Memorial in the National Gallery of Australia

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a museum enthusiast so I was quite pleased with Canberra’s selection of museums. Besides the majestic war memorial and the modern parliament house, I was able to visit plenty of museums including the National Gallery of Australia. I learned a lot about Australian art and artists. For example, the Aboriginal Memorial (pictured above) has “200 hollow log coffins” that represents each year of occupation from the Europeans and were created by Aboriginal artists from 1987-1988. It also represents the lives lost from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people during colonial times from 1788-1988. Read more about this memorial here.

“Austracism” (2003) by Vernon Ah Kee

My favorite part of the gallery was the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, especially since they displayed not only traditional artwork but also more modern, urban art. Taken from the gallery’s website, the piece above is fully explained:

Austracism 2003 is a direct play on the word ‘ostracism’, looking at the commonly expressed and all too familiar sentiments surrounding racism in Australia. Each opening line starts with I’m not a racist but …, a powerful statement in itself that sets the scene for the following conflicting personal statements of others. This large panel uses black and white Helvetica font, typical of wall panels used in public art institutions. Direct quotes and playing on words provoke thought, encouraging the viewer to question their inner narrative about race, equality and identity.

This piece stood out for me not only because of the bold lettering but also because once you read through all the “I’m not a racist but…” statements, you realize that they’re universal; not only have I heard some of these exact phrases in Australia but I’ve also heard them in the United States to refer to other minorities. It’s unfortunate that something like racism is a universal thing.

part of the HHH series by Fiona Foley

This was another stunning piece; a set of costumes by artist, Fiona Foley. These costumes of the HHH (Hedonistic Honky Haters) are a response to the costumes of the KKK but these would be worn by black people instead of white supremacists. I was first drawn to the beautiful fabric but then I was completely taken aback by the entire appearance of the work. It’s provocative, haunting, and shocking and it actually made me wonder if such a group could actually exist. Read more about Foley and this series here.

“Eran (River)” (2010) by Tapich Gloria Fletcher at the entrance of the gallery

If there’s any museum you must see in Australia, it’s this one.
For more information about the National Gallery of Australia, visit


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