Destiny Deacon, pillar of Indigenous Australian art, 1957–2024

Destiny Deacon © the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

Aboriginal artist Destiny Deacon has died aged 67.

Deacon was best known for her darkly humorous take on racism, sexuality, feminism and the related historical injustices perpetrated against Australia’s First Nations communities. Credited for inventing the term ‘Blak’ in 1991, which is now regularly used to describe First Nations contemporary art and culture, Deacon (of KuKu and Erub/Mer descent) made work via photography, video, performance and installation that often featured her collection of ‘Aboriginalia’. These kitsch objects and black dolls, created by white Australians and presenting a caricature of Aboriginal people and their culture, were re-presented, often in unsettling scenarios, by Deacon in multiple series of works in order to satirise ongoing racist attitudes and treatment in Australia.

In ArtReview’s October 2020 issue, Deacon contributed an artist project including photos of dolls from this collection in a sequence that explores the intersection between racism and sexuality. Currently on show at the Biennale of Sydney is her most recent work Blak Bay (2023–2024) – a reversal of ‘White Bay’, named after the surgeon John White who is associated with the colonial foundation of Australia in 1788: the series of photographs, which, via images of dolls are archival photographs and scenes from Deacon’s own home, ‘urges viewers to reconsider names, histories, and spaces through an Indigenous perspective’.

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