A while ago I was asked to do some work about the Chris Hurley case. Because I wasn’t directly involved I decided to do a more general painting on black deaths in custody. This is it: FIGHT: To Survive; To Live; To Die!
My ﬁrst thought was to depict a subversion of events. Instead of a blackfella being beaten by the cops, here, you’ve got the cops being beaten by a blackfella. My central ﬁgure is the key to this painting: an image of resilience, of ﬁghting back against the odds.
The boxing tent to the left refers to a history of blackfellas ﬁghting in Australia. Here I use it as a sign of empowerment with the blackfellas as heroes and the redneck crowd as villains. The left panel shows the faces of the rednecks. Like criminals, their faces are obscured by stockings. This obscurement refers to how racism can be masked or institutionalised. It’s a kind of crowd mentality.
The crow on the right of the central panel refers to the spirit of blackfellas who have died in custody, ascending from the jail cell. To its right, the dove symbolises the resting place of those spirits: a place of freedom and peace.
As for the global symbol, I’ve used this in the past. Global decisions impact on us locally, such as multinational companies drawing resources from Indigenous lands. It’s a reminder that the ﬁght is not just against crooked cops.
Gordon Hookey, 2007