HONOURS THESIS ABSTRACT
REFLECTIONS OF THE AUSTRALIAN INDIGENOUS SOVEREIGNTY DEBATE IN CONTEMPORARY AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINAL ART
The topic of Indigenous sovereignty will provide the focus for a comparative and evaluative study of several Australian Aboriginal artists, including Gordon Hookey, Vernon Ah Kee, Reko Rennie, Richard Bell, Gordon Bennett and Michael Cook, with a particular focus on the photographic work of Darren Siwes, a contemporary artist of Aboriginal and Dutch descent. The study examines a range of discourses and political positions on the question of Indigenous sovereignty in Australia that have emerged since the 1990s. It situates these debates in the fields of history, law, political theory and sociology in relation to the concept of “identity politics” as it has evolved in postcolonial theory.
Sovereignty as a politico-legal term refers to the ownership of supreme power, authority and governance over a geographical area, the possession of which is usually obtained by the head of a monarchy or, in democratic societies, by the representative government. This position, in the eyes of Australian law, has been held by the British Crown symbolically since 1770 and the government legislatively since Federation, a status which many Indigenous Australians view as illegitimate. Aboriginal artists have responded to the hypocrisy, sanctimoniousness, tensions and anxiety bound within Australia’s sovereign status, issues that this thesis will examine. It will be argued that, when compared to the art of his contemporaries, Darren Siwes’ photographic work engages with the issues of Australian Indigenous sovereignty, politics and identity in a unique and innovative way.
Image: Darren Siwes, Jingli Kwin, 2013, giclée print on Kodak Lustre, 120x100cm, edition of 10 + 2 AP. From the Mulaga Gudjerie Series. Source - Greenaway Art Gallery