A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

Many blackfullas I know have thrived during the pandemic. A life of restrictions and stay at home orders are not new experiences for our mob. The past two centuries have seen ‘Australia’ maintain aggression, surveillance and violent control campaigns year after year in our Aboriginal communities. The process of applying for travel exemptions and requesting permission to do basic everyday things, a not-so-distant past for many of our relations, grandparents and great-grandparents who had to do this for work and family business up into the 70s in some states and territories.

Now, we are having to bear witness to freedom rallies and the mass co-optation of our brutal experiences from the hyper-privileged. The co-opters’ convoluted reactions to lockdowns during COVID-19 pandemic are minuscule to the loss of human rights and freedoms Aboriginal people endured and continue to fight for. More than 80 percent of the world’s population live on low and middle incomes, this global majority is not white and it is this global majority that has also endured oppression inflicted by colonialism and capitalism for centuries too.

The virus plaguing the earth and climate change is also a consequence of colonial neglect and disrespect for our mother earth. It is not time to start co-opting the narrative of the most downtrodden citizens on earth in the name of ‘freedom’, it is the time to realise your privileges and access to resources and begin the healing process. What can privileged people learn from this small dose of sacrifice for the greater health and well being of our communities across the globe?

Artists, storytellers, makers and elders provide the access to truth, power and medicine for humanity. If we are to continue to survive and make it to the other side of the pandemic, we must care for and not co-opt the stories of the most vulnerable, this includes caring for country and our non-human relations also.

For blackfullas in this country, contemporary art is one of the only spaces where we have access to freedom, autonomy and economic independence. Art and culture is critical in the transmission of intergenerational health, wellbeing and knowledge, it maintains our connection to the planet, to each other and provides a strong foundation for us as a collective community to practice cultural traditions, sharing country and creating our future together.

Contemporary Aboriginal art and the reckoning of colonialism is one of the most powerful antidotes to the collective struggle and issues arising from neo-liberal ideology. Contemporary Aboriginal art has provided a much needed truth serum for so-called ‘Australia’ over the past 40 years and has created a safe space for people fed-up with ongoing lies and misinformation about our shared history and community struggles.

In light of the upcoming Art on Bundjalung Markets, local communities here have an opportunity to connect directly with the Bundjalung artists, storytellers, makers and elders to support artistic freedom and cultural expression. I hope you can join blakfullas here on this beautiful land that continues to nurture and sustain us and celebrate the deadly culture of this place. Come support the community and remember that ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’.

©  Words by Megan Cope

Megan has kindly donated her Soapbox writers fee towards the continuation of Arts Northern Rivers’ First Nations Visual Arts Scholarship, delivered in partnership with the Byron School of Art (BSA). 

Image | Megan Cope pictured with her Oyster Shell Installation. Image courtesy of the NGA.