Robert Kelty

Fractured Identity 2014 ceramic 28 x 19 x 12 cm

“We stagger and stumble into each other in confusion when our identity is contested and thus allow ourselves to be moulded by others.”

Dr Charles Nelson Perkins

Fractured Identity is a response to the controversy surrounding Andrew Bolt and his views on how Aboriginality should be determined. It is also a manifestation of my own personal struggle to come to terms with my Indigenous ancestry, discovered in the last six months of my father’s life. This had been a family secret because they were ashamed of any hint of Indigenous heritage and, indeed, were hostile towards it.

Since my father’s dying revelation, I have felt suspended between two worlds, Indigenous and non-indigenous, fitting into neither. I was raised as an Anglo-Saxon Australian without knowledge of my ancestry, hence the underlying dominance of the Anglo-Saxon face. The outer, Indigenous face is transforming the other but has reached a stalemate, each face unsure of the others boundaries. The psychological torment this has caused me since 2001 is expressed in the facial gesture with its shock and surprise. What had once been sure was now unsure, safe now unsafe. The hint of guilt lingers in the reflection of the left eye, guilt born of fear and ignorance, which I have still not come to terms with.

Is Aboriginality determined by skin colour or blood?

The court-case surrounding Andrew Bolt and (Section) 18C (of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975) exacerbated my dilemma; I felt more guilt for receiving a special scholarship during my Bachelor of Fine Arts. The Indigenous Education Centre at the University of Ballarat were very understanding and welcoming as were the Indigenous community in Ballarat. It has been a struggle for me to enter this competition for these reasons. Fractured Identity is the outcome of my personal, unresolved civil war.