From Max Dupain’s iconic photograph The Sunbaker, to the endless summer of Home and Away, the beach has long been used as an emblem of Australian cultural identity.
In December 2005, the racial conflict that came to be known as the Cronulla Riots showed the ugly side of Australian beach culture, as racial and ethnic tensions flared between Anglo-Australians and young men reported to be of Middle Eastern descent. In the violent melee that ensued, “we grew here, you flew here” was the chant invoked by white Australians, asserting their entitlement to the territory of the beach.
Ah Kee’s photographic series wegrewhere is a sardonic reminder of Aboriginal sovereignty in the face of the rioters rhetoric. Members of Ah Kee’s extended family stand alongside Indigenous pro-surfer Dale Richards using surfboards painted with Yindinji shield designs from Far North Queensland.
Through clever visual puns and word play, Ah Kee disrupts the iconography of Australian beach cuture, cleverly commenting on notions of tribalism and offering a powerful counterpoint to limited notions of national identity.
Learn more about Vernon Ah Kee and other works in the UTS Art Collection through our Indigenous Art Education resources.