We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Be Deadly (I am, you are, we are)



  • Details

    Media categories
    Print , Collage
    Materials used
    Giclee screenprint with acrylic and collage
    140.0 x 100.0 cm frame
    Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Dr Clinton Ng and Steven Johnston 2023
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Tony Albert

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Tony Albert

    Artist profile

    Works in the collection


  • About

    Tony Albert is a politically-minded artist provoked by stereotypical representations of Aboriginal people and the colonial history that attempts to define him, and what Aboriginality is, in the present. Albert has spent the majority of his life in Brisbane but has strong family connections further north to the Girramay and Kuku Yalanji people of the rainforest region.

    Along with Richard Bell and Vernon Ah Kee, Albert is a founding member of the Brisbane-based collective, proppaNOW, which was officially incorporated in 2006. As with Bell and Ah Kee, the use of text as a provocative device is central to Albert’s practice. By taking control of language and using it to interrogate cultural alienation, Albert shifts the power balance that has long defined the way language has been used to subjugate Aboriginal people since Cook took possession of this country in 1770 under the doctrine of ‘terra nullius’.1

    Albert’s Be Deadly prints show three smiling Aboriginal children with text that exclaims, ‘BE DEADLY’. The works use Aboriginal vernacular to share a message of positivity and strength that defies stereotypes and empowers the next generation. In Be Deadly (I am, you are, we are) the phrase competes with lyrics from the 1987 song I am Australian by The Seekers, a track known for its patriotic lyrics and popular consideration as an unofficial national anthem. In omitting ‘Australian’ from the song’s choral refrain – ‘I am, you are, we are Australian’ – Albert subverts its patriotism and questions colonial notions of national identity and belonging.

    1 Cara Pinchbeck in 'Tradition today: Indigenous art in Australia’, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2014

Other works by Tony Albert

See all 5 works