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"Courting Blakness t-shirt" 2014

Wall text

Wall text

Archie Moore
Born 1970, Yuggera, Giabal, and Jarowar Country/Toowoomba, QLD. Kamilaroi/Bigambul.

Lives and works in Quandamooka Country/Redland, QLD.

Pronouns: he/him. 

 

"Courting Blakness t-shirt" 2014

 

printed cotton t-shirt

 

The University of Queensland Study Collection, 2014.

 

In 2014, Fiona Foley curated Courting Blakness: Recalibrating Knowledge in the Sandstone University, a site-responsive exhibition held in The University of Queensland’s (UQ) Great Court. Through the work of nine participating First Nations Australian artists, Courting Blakness reclaimed the Great Court, a meeting place built and founded upon western settler-colonial values and knowledge systems. Archie Moore was featured in this exhibition with his work 14 Queensland Nations (Nations imagined by RH Mathews) (2014).

Moore’s installation consisted of 14 flags designed by the artist, hung from the flagpoles that line the Great Court’s central walkway. Each flag was made to represent a different Indigenous nation of Queensland. The flags were originally intended to fly from the flagpoles atop the Forgan Smith Building, but permission for this was withdrawn by the University. The cotton t-shirt displayed here is one of many that were made and distributed to volunteers and visitors during the exhibition, brandishing Moore’s flag design for the Kamilaroi Nation. 

 

Moore’s decision to design flags for just 14 nations was inspired by a map of Australia published around 1900 by non-Indigenous anthropologist R. H. Mathews, which marked out perceived boundaries between Aboriginal nations across the country. On this map, Queensland is divided into 14 nations. While Mathews’s work is tainted by the reductive methodologies of the Western settler-colonial perspective, it is rare among anthropological surveys of the time. Importantly, Mathews recognised the existence of Aboriginal Australian national borders and of political cohesion within state-like boundaries. As such, Mathews’s research becomes the ideal context for Moore’s work, as a visual assertion of Indigenous sovereignty from within the elitism of the Great Court’s architecture.

Through his flag designs, Moore uses Mathews’s incorrect mapping to draw attention to the problematic nature of colonial attempts to control diverse populations of First Nations peoples by western categorisations. Moore’s subsequent ‘false flags’ question the prejudiced ways that national flags are used and consumed, as objects attempting to claim some sense of unified identity. The hanging of Moore’s Kamilaroi flag here, in its wearable t-shirt form, refers to the casual, jingoistic adoption of flags as symbols of national identity through apparel and other flag-branded merchandise. Moore usurps this with his ‘false’ flag designs, asserting an alternative, heterogenous understanding of national belonging. 
 

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