The subjects of Billy Bain’s sculptural installation are (from left to right) Ashleigh Barty (Ngarigo), Patty Mills (Kokatha/Naghiralgal/Dauareb-Meriam), Tai ‘Bam Bam’ Tuivasa (Wiradjuri), Latrell Mitchell (Biripi/Wiradjuri) and Donnell Wallam (Noongar). Regarded by many as strong Indigenous leaders, these athletes were chosen by Bain because they are ‘not only brilliant in their chosen sports, but because they also stand true to their culture and beliefs in an exceptionally volatile and political space’.
In a country where sport holds so much cultural currency, Bain sees these five athletes as agents of change. He believes their voices are full of complexity and have a role to play in breaking performance barriers in their chosen sporting codes, inspiring young Indigenous people to stand tall.
‘To be a successful Indigenous person – thriving in a system and society that has denied your existence – is innately political,’ says Bain. Thus, to the artist, politics and sport will always be intertwined.
Bain is a first-time Wynne prize finalist and is also a finalist in this year’s Sulman Prize.