The Blaktism

By Right Now in conversation with Megan Cope | 12 May 14

Right Now: Can you tell us a little bit about The Blaktism, your new media work currently showing at Screen Space?

Megan Cope: The Blaktism is a video performance of a baptism-like ceremony wherein a young Quandamooka woman (myself) gets blaktised in order to be seen as a true authentic Aboriginal by true Australians.

What motivated you to seek out a (satirical) “Certificate of Aboriginality”? Do you think that there’s a certain social pressure to validate our cultural and racial identities?

The work was motivated more so by the overwhelming sense of doubt and insecurity I felt at the thought of obtaining this document. I think that there is pressure to explain how much Aboriginal you are and why you identify as Aboriginal to the white community, it’s like a passive aggressive suspicious interrogation.

How does The Blaktism intersect with the current discussion around racial discrimination – in particular, Andrew Bolt’s columns about fair-skinned Aboriginal people?

I guess The Blaktism highlights the absurdity of Australia’s obsession with authenticity yet simultaneously insisting assimilation of all people whom call Australia home. If we as a nation were more honest about the historical foundations of this nation we would understand why Aboriginal people have arrived at their disposition.

There’s a rather dark humour running through The Blaktism – from the title of the work through to the image of you enveloped in a Union Jack flag. How do you see the role of humour in politically engaged artwork?

I think it’s very important to highlight and exploit our relationship with the types of symbolism that is visually apparent in this work. I think that humour is a way Aboriginal people deal with our adversity and is a means to challenge and make sense of social and political issues. The symbolism in The Blaktism is what connects us to the conceptual framework, narrative and overall dialog in the artwork.

The Blaktism feels like an intensely personal work, as well as being a political one. Your own identity – and your own body – are very much at the heart of the work. Did you find that difficult, or was there a sense of liberation as well?

Yes it was challenging, my general practice as a painter provides a sense of anonymity or a subtle shield between my ideas and the object. So The Blaktism was extremely revealing, technically challenging and deeply personal, the work itself has inadvertently become a catharsis to my personal insecurities of being a fair-skinned Aboriginal woman, the process personally resolved these issues and reiterated that Aboriginality is more than skin deep.

BLAKTISM trailer for Megan Cope 2014 from Siân Darling on Vimeo.
The Blaktism is showing at Screen Space (30 Guildford Lane) in Melbourne from 2 May to 14 May, and Metro Arts in Brisbane from 21 May to 7 June.