When Pakistani artist Abdullah M.I. Syed first arrived in Australia as a student, the cricket fanatic experienced his first taste of an Ashes series between England and Australia.
“During that time I heard the word ‘Pom’ and I found it very odd that Australians were using that word to insult the English,” he said.
“I actually asked a friend, ‘Is this something to do with pomegranate?'”
Cricket would trigger the artist’s sculptural work Forbidden Fruit, where the idea of ball-tampering is taken to a whole new level.
“It goes back to the idea of the fall of man from grace, and I think that is something that is happening in cricket right now,” he said.
“With all these cricketers being so creative, I actually need some assistance.
“I really would like them to come to my studio and work on these balls and then I can actually figure out all the ways you can tamper with these balls.
“They’re actually making all the artwork for me.”
His work is not only a commentary on the many ways cricket has been compromised through the ball-tampering of Pakistani, South African, Indian and Australian players, but also a look at colonisation, multiculturalism and the current political climate.
“It’s actually mirroring our politics,” he said.
“Most of these incidents happened under someone’s guidance — a captain is aware of it or ordered it.
“Similar things are happening in our governments as well — the prime minister, the president — they’re aware of all the things that are going on.”
His ongoing sculptural work is on show as part of an exhibition at the UNSW Galleries called Enough Khalas, a collection of 16 Australian-based Muslim artists all aiming to put a stop to the relentless negative stereotyping.
“It really is this idea of speaking back to popular culture, showing alternative faces to what Islam is and what Islamic art is,” said co-curator Philip George.
Giving Islamic women an identity
Melbourne based Iranian artist Hoda Afshar’s Westoxicated series takes aim at other artists who are making work about the plight of Islamic women, and challenges the dominant representations of them as faceless and without identity.
“Andy Warhol was talking about the mass production and mass consumption of imagery and I used that to talk about the mass production of similar images of Islamic women and Islamic women’s identity within the art market.”
“It’s exaggerating those themes but using irony to juxtapose the two to make it clear that this is not a statement about their suppressions.”
The exhibition runs at the UNSW Galleries through to July 14.