This blog post was provided by Sophia Konti as part of the We Bleed the Same Masterclass program. The WBTS Masterclasses brought together seven outstanding ANU students to learn about how art can be used as part of a campaign against racism. The Masterclass launched these artworks at the 55 CANCRI E Exhibition in Novemeber 2022.
“Bloody new Australian!”
“Go home WOGS!”
"You’re not an Aussie, you’re different!’’
This artwork explores the themes of identity and belonging through the eyes of a migrant refugee child who was forced to flee Hungary with her family after World War II; arriving in a new land and the promise of a new life. “As a young child, I was excited and scared at the same time about coming to a new country to start a new life—very much wanting to be accepted for who I am.”
Learning a new language and being exposed to new customs, she discovered she and her family were different and that the differences made it hard to be accepted and to belong. ‘’I desperately wanted and needed to be Australian but didn’t feel I belonged or was accepted.’’ She lived the days trying to fit into one culture and societal norm, returning by night to the familiar. Over time the familiar seems more distant. Accents creep into the first language, and neither is spoken like a native. Finally, both sets of native speakers identify her as somehow foreign. ‘’I assimilated according to Australian culture, hoping I might be accepted, but I never forgot my ancestry.”
In her earlier life, she had a chance meeting with a wise, senior Aboriginal Elder, who received her with open arms: “Welcome to my Land’’. It was a powerful spiritual experience and a message of acceptance of diversity without prejudice. Yet, with so much of formative life seemingly erased, that child of long ago is still there under the layers, and with hindsight and wisdom, she now feels comfortable in her own skin—she now feels her home is indeed Australia, (with her family).
The concept of ‘erasure’ as a theoretical process within image-making augments the subject’s distorted identity through haptic manipulation. It is rendered into an image that evokes a vulnerability to suffering. Meaning is provided through signs of an absence, evidence of displacement, negation, substitution, or denial. By erasing all recognisable semblances and abrading the photographic image to its material form, the work records palimpsestic traces of gestural line, mark-making, and painterly abstraction. Transformation realised through destruction.
So, who is she, and where does she belong?
“I am Erika…and I am a proud Hungarian-born Australian.’’
In memory of those who came before us, who endured and lived the struggle, and made Australia the lucky country it is today.
Sophia Konti is a second-year Visual Arts student at the Australian National University. Her art practice is attributed to historical and scientific-based research—translating her studies to demonstrate how her investigations are used to engage with sociopolitical, geographic, and environmental discourse. Sophia’s explorations of, and strong interest in, behavioural science draws on personal themes of loss, memory, trauma, and culture, infusing them with a universal resonance.
Being chosen to become part of the We Bleed the Same family has enabled Sophia to utilise her studies and visual arts skills to actively explore identity and belonging, racism, and cultural diversity and its impact on people and society. As a first-generation Australian of a family who fled their war-torn country, Sophia feels strongly about her cultural background and legacy, and provides a platform to give a voice to those who can no longer speak for themselves.