An artist is currently travelling across Australia sticking up thousands of posters featuring the faces of Australians from different origins and generations to highlight the issue of immigration.
They include Monga Khan who was one of thousands of people who applied for exemptions to the White Australia Policy a century ago. He was born in India but arrived in Australia as a travelling salesman hawking goods between towns.
Cameleers, Hawkers and other traders were granted exemptions because their work was essential to Australian’s growing economy.
“For 70 years these people played a crucial role and I’d like to celebrate their contribution to Australia,” said artist Peter Drew from Adelaide who believes that people should appreciate the contribution immigrants make now and in the past.
The faces featured on his posters don’t look like Australians and the artwork includes the word AUSSIE across the bottom to remind people that Australians come from all kinds of places.
He wants people to see the posters and think more about Australia’s real identity. In particular he wants to reach out to people who may think that there are too many immigrants in the country.
“These people are not bigots, they are people who have forgotten our strength,” he explained. “I was in Perth and a guy said that Khan was the lease looking Aussie he had ever seen. I told him that was the point,” he added.
He has been amazed by the support he has received for his campaign from members of the public. Some have contributed to the cost of his flights, others have offered him lifts to and from prominent locations.
He has been particularly angered by an off the cuff remark recently from Immigration Minister Peter Dutton that refugees are illiterate and believes that asylum seekers should be seen as a strength.
Immigration is set to be a major issue in the upcoming general election in Australia as the debate about boat people and the policy of turning them back and not allowing them ashore continues.
“At the beginning of 2016 Mona Khan had been hidden within the Australian National Archive for 100 years, and with each passing year his story fades. This project aims to reimagine his life as a symbol for all those who survived the White Australia Policy. By sharing his story we can begin to revitalise what it means to be Aussie,” said Drew.
“The aim of this project is to turn Monga Khan into an Aussie folk hero and, in doing so, use mythology to embrace our neglected histories and expand Australia’s identity,” he added.
Article Via: australiaforum