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.
Vernon Ah Kee ‘acontentedslave’
Vernon Ah Kee was born in Innisfail, North Queensland, in 1967. He is a descendant of the Kuku Yalanji, Yidinyji and Guugu Yimithirr people of North Queensland and has kinship connections to the Waanyi people of central western Queensland.
Acknowledgment of Country
The Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land on which the Gallery stands in Brisbane. We pay respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders past and present and, in the spirit of reconciliation, acknowledge the immense creative contribution First Australians make to the art and culture of this country.
It is customary in many Indigenous communities not to mention the name or reproduce photographs of the deceased. All such mentions and photographs are with permission, however, care and discretion should be exercised.
acontentedslave was on view in ‘GOMA Q: Contemporary Queensland Art’ at the Gallery of Modern Art 11 July – 11 October 2015.