Racist Ideology and Hashtag Activism

The Collision of Art, Brand, and Law in Peter Drew's Aussie Folk Hero, Monga Khan


  • Kathy Bowrey University of New South Wales


Racist ideology is reproduced in daily communications and in art. Racism is also challenged. In this essay I explore the way ideology is present in Peter Drew’s ‘Monga Khan’ posters — artwork designed to provoke critical reflection about representations of race and Australian identity. Part I discusses the ideological engagement Peter Drew anticipated arising from his art ‘hactivism’ and critical reception of the work. I compare Drew’s oeuvre to 1970–80s protest posters, showing the effects of greater exposure to intellectual property constructs, marketing, and commercial branding on the ambition of art activism. Part II shows how attribution practices in the art world and media connect the politics of hactivist art with commodification. I discuss how ‘Blackness’, represented by Drew in the form of challenge to racialized ideas of Australian identity, functions as Drew’s ‘second skin’, or brand identity. Subaltern voices also challenge the authority of white artists to speak for the ‘Other’, but due to the way today we attribute ownership to image and voice, these protests metamorphise into a passing parade of objectified cultural difference. Part III draws out the implications for law, addressing the socio-legal reproduction of ideology, outside of relations normally identified with the lived experience of law.