Vernon Ah Kee’s shield surfboards were first conceptualised in 2007 in response to the 2005 Cronulla riots. The beach in Australia has often been associated with white recreation, but for Aboriginal people it represents something entirely different. The beach, particularly around Sydney, was the site of first contact between Aboriginal people and European coveters and colonists. It was also the site of the first sustained conflict. This suite of shield boards continues Ah Kee’s inquiry into dehumanisation, this time through the history of slavery.
To make a contented slave, it is necessary to make a thoughtless one. He must be able to detect no inconsistencies in slavery; he must be made to feel that slavery is right; and he can be brought to that only when he ceases to be a man.
Frederick Douglass, activist and abolitionist, 1845
acontentedslave is on view in ‘GOMA Q: Contemporary Queensland Art’ currently showing at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) until 11 October. The accompanying publication profiles the latest innovations and achievements by some of Queensland’s leading visual artists. It includes the work of some 30 artists of all generations — emerging, mid-career and senior artists — working across drawing, painting, photography, video, installation, performance, ceramics and sculpture.