The process of arriving at this particular work was fraught. As a woman born of mixed heritage that is predominately Jewish and Wadawurrung, I felt an immediate connection to the theme of the exhibition. There is common ground between the Holocaust and the ongoing colonisation of the Australian Aboriginal community. Having spent many years exploring my Aboriginal heritage and little time on my Jewish side, I felt this was the perfect opportunity to do so. As it happens, my family was fortunate enough to not have been touched by Hitler’s racism. Feeling stumped and unsure as to what to do, Dr Helen Light suggested I take a look at the legacy of Uncle William Cooper.
Uncle William Cooper is the only individual in the world to have staged a private protest condemning the cruel persecution of the Jewish people by the Nazi government of Germany. On the 6th December 1938, armed with a signed petition and driven by his faith in Christ and belief in equality, Cooper led a delegation of Aboriginal community members on a march from Footscray to the German Consulate in Melbourne. The petition was rejected but the protest highlights how Cooper had a heart for people who were treated unequally.
This is a man whom I can hold up as someone to aspire to, a true leader and role model. He loved Jesus and the Church, derived his activist beliefs in equality from the Bible and was a proud Aboriginal man. This work, Morning Star, attempts to pay homage to and create a contemporary portrait of Uncle William Cooper. The video streetscape traces his protest steps from Footscray to Melbourne and is overlaid with an original gospel song created by Jen Mega with Wadawurrung lyrics and vocals by myself.