Girramay Traditional Owner and artist Abe Muriata has been at the forefront of a campaign to remove “Aboriginal Art” made by non-Indigenous people from retail outlets across Australia. The proliferation of imported non-Indigenous product in the marketplace is not only confusing the marketplace but is also raising issues of deceptive practices which while not necessarily illegal are morally questionable.
The Fake Art Harms Culture campaign is being driven by the Indigenous Art Code with support from Arts Law Australia and the Copyright Agency/Viscopy. The Girringun Aboriginal Art Centre has also played an assisting role throughout the process where-ever possible.
As an artist and representative of Girringun, Abe Muriata has travelled to Canberra and Sydney and participated in a number of media interviews to support the campaign and raise awareness with politicians, retailers and other artists over the past six months.. The issue has implications for Indigenous people across Australia and Frank Robson of the Sydney Morning Herald described last weekend that:
Unless the imported souvenirs are falsely claimed to be authentic at the point of sale, the fake art trade isn’t illegal under Australian law. But it is increasingly seen as exploitative and immoral because it plagiarises, distorts and disrespects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, as well as robbing Indigenous artists of income and deceiving consumers, most of whom are overseas tourists.
Now, just four months out from the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, industry sources say there’s so much fake stuff flooding Australia that genuine Indigenous products are being priced out of the market. Politicians have joined with exasperated Indigenous lobbyists to fight the problem: a federal government inquiry into the complexities of the trade concluded in November, with recommendations expected shortly, and federal independent MP Bob Katter has called for the sale of phoney Aboriginal products to be made illegal, however they’re labelled. (http://www.smh.com.au/good-weekend/the-booming-trade-in-fake-indigenous-art-20171122-gzqyam.html)
If new legislation is developed as a result of the Fake Art Harms Culture campaign there will be many benefits that will result. Artists will receive more appropriate recognition and return for their work and it is anticipated that the incredible diversity of Indigenous cultural practices and living become more visible throughout Australia.