An Adelaide artist is using a photograph of a Muslim cameleer to get people thinking about what constitutes a ‘real Australian’.
Peter Drew used crowdfunding to travel around Australia and stick up 1000 posters of the man with the caption ‘Aussie’ underneath his photo.
The man featured in his campaign is Monga Khan who lived and worked in Australia as a cameleer.
The men and their camels came from Afghanistan and other countries and helped open up outback Australia to explorers from the 1860s to the 1930s.
They were also instrumental in introducing Islam to Australia.
Artist Peter Drew found the image of Monga Khan in the National Archives of Australia.
Mr Drew says he decided to use it in a campaign to get people thinking about Australian identity.
He says that despite the existence of the White Australia policy, people like Monga Khan managed to gain entry into the country by applying for an exemption.
“So, because of that piece of hypocrisy there are amazing photographs of people from all over the world who came to Australia and made a contribution and Monga Khan is one of those people.”
Peter Drew used crowdfunding to finance travel across Australia to put up the posters.
“I’ve made a thousand posters of Monga Khan with the world Aussie underneath and Aussie is slang for an Australian, but it sort of embodies a stereotype of what an Australian is and that stereotype is left over from the White Australia policy and so I’d like to confront peoples understanding of what an Aussie is and show that aussies have been, from all over the world, for a very long time, and there are so many interesting contributions from all sorts of people.”
Peter Drew says the reaction has been largely positive although he says there’s been some criticism.
“I think every place around the world there are people who are fearful, of people who seem different and it’s more than likely that Monga Khan was a Muslim and there’s a lot of fear surrounding that in Australia today but, to be honest, I don’t think it’s a lot of fear. I think it’s a small amount of people who have probably never met a Muslim and are a little bit afraid and so they see someone who looks different with the world Aussie underneath them and it confronts them and I want to confront them, those people, in a gentle way, just to sort of show them that Aussie doesn’t mean, isn’t a small box, it’s a big idea.”