They call me niigarr 1995

They call me niigarr reflects on childhood school days when you used to get called names like ‘nigger’, ‘chocolate’ or ‘sambo’, ‘vegemite’. All these lovely racist names that not only the students but the teachers would call you. They call me niigarr was a portrait of a friend of mine – an Aboriginal person in a black Armani suit sitting on a lounge. He’s reflecting what those words are or were, juxtaposing the words and images together. MR

Originally conceived of as a photographic collage, They call me niigarr became a portrait series with sitter David Prosser. It was Michael Riley’s last exhibition with Hogarth Galleries in Sydney and his most overtly political photographic body of work. Comprised of nine images combining portraiture and collage, They call me niigarr features racist names and slurs, such as ‘nigger’, ‘Vegemite’ and ‘Marbuck’ (after the legendary antagonist of Charles Chauvel’s 1955 film Jedda), that Riley remembers being called as a child; names that are familiar, colloquial and have entered into Australian parlance. The series travelled to the United Kingdom for the 1996 exhibition Abstracts: New Aboriginalities at Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery, Exeter, and 198 Contemporary Arts and Learning, London.

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