Apart from the not so obvious agendas that muddy the water in the Aboriginal artistic community, there also exists a sad component for me that is closer to home. Here's something I've tried to correct and eradicate in my own community. The bare faced lie that this man, my nephew has been telling people about his grandmother, MY mother. For quite a few years now, Allan Sumner has been pushing the false narrative that his dot painting style comes from times when he would sit around the campfire with his Nanna. This woman would teach him and explain meanings and symbols that would eventually help him in his art and, as the story goes, he would use what she taught him in his paintings.
This is an absolute lie. A falsehood created by a young man to ingratiate people toward his art and to make himself appear more genuine as an Indigenous artist. I have no idea why he continues with this lie, he's a talented person and does not need to make up these kinds of narratives.
I would attempt here to give you a complete picture and offer a background of Dorothy Sumner, the woman Allan claims to have been shown the painting style by, but it would only cause me more emotional distress. Perhaps another time.
On three occasions now I have asked Allan to remove this specious fabrication from his story but he seems bent on misleading people and allowing others to think that my mother was something that she was not. She was a woman who, as part of the Stolen Generation, lost her culture, language and connection with land and family. She did not return to this culture in any sense of the word 'return', only to discover her brothers, mother and other relatives a lot later in life. As her son, it was heartbreaking to hear her story and saddening to see her sit before a Royal Commission and relive her horror.
This opportunistic man includes her in his narrative as someone who knew her culture and art. The lie is so ridiculous that a quick observation of Allan's work can easily be seen as influenced by other art movements within the wider Aboriginal community and not specifically from one group, let alone a woman who was taken from her people, did not know the art, let alone the stories of the yankunytjatjara people. She lost so much. And this man chooses to appropriate her pain.
I will not allow this lie to remain in the public space.
Time to rid ourselves of the little lies.... and become a bold, brave community that says no to this sort of falsehood.