Only White People

Click to read about Only White People.

This is the work I created for the ‘HUB BUB’ Graduate Show for Edith Cowan University 2013. This work was created at the time of the election that saw Tony Abbott  come to power. The media was saturated with anti-‘boat people’ propaganda, and as a hybrid-born Australian I felt alienated and ashamed of this country.

‘Constellation of Delirium’ is a term coined by Homi Bhabha which referes to an unconscious acceptance of social differences and hierarchies, a sense of one’s place. This idea of a sense of one’s place was the at the core of this work. This work was a call for a dialogue about the very real, albeit ‘off-shore’ Australian Policies and Ideologies.

In the creating of the work, I presented different representations of Australia; the glossy constructed image to gain tourism, the ‘fuck off we’re full’ racists, those that were not proud to be born Australian, Indigenous Australians and those in power who continue to breed the idea of ‘White Australia.’

I did not want to push my own political ideals onto the audience, so I tried to create a visual conversation about the Australian ideologies that surround race. I accompanied this ‘conversation’ with a diptych of my own background, of being born in Australia but existing as a hybrid. I chose to use family dinner table as a metaphor, where the protagonist of the painting had to choose between a fork and a chopstick.  I also included traditional japanese cuisine in a style reminiscent of manga, to illustrate the one-dimensional, cosmopolitanised idea of other cultures in Australia, referencing a common conversation I have with ‘White Australians’:

Them: We were trying to guess where you from? You look Indonesian
Me: I was born in Queensland
Them: No, but where are you from from?
Me: (reluctantly)…I am Japanese/Maori 
Them: That’s a unique mix. Japanese, you know I really like teriyaki chicken
Me: That’s brilliant. 

It may seem harmless, but I have this exchange about 5 times a week, and after awhile it wears thin. It was this language of othering and them stating my point of difference, accompanied by my application for a passport I was made to go through ‘immigration’ and get a Australian citizenship, despite having a legal Australian Birth Certificate, as well as the ‘boat-people’ propaganda, all of which created the catalyst for the project.

A taxi driver once said to me through a thick accent that “only white people ask where I’m from.” In my 10 minute conversation with this man, we realised that we had a lot in common, both in the way in which we were treated and thusly felt about Australia. Australian representatives and policies allow Australian habitus, that being socialized norms and dispositions, to be racist in nature.

In many ways my encounter with the taxi driver gave me the confidence that what I had to say needed to be said, not just for the refugees in off-shore detention centers, but for people like him, living within Australia, and treated as an alien.


This work recieved mixed feedback, some believed the work to be strong and worth talking about, others though paint was the wrong platform to have these discussions as the material of paint was overlooked in the concept. Since ‘HUB BUB’ the work was chosen to be shown in the ‘Watch this Space’ exhibition at the Mundaring Arts Center.

Only White people ask where I'm from
Only White people ask where I’m from
Constellation of Delirium
Constellation of Delirium
Constellation (detail)
Constellation (detail)
Tourist not Vagabond
Tourist not Vagabond

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