BORDERLANDS – By Philip George

On June 9th, the Islamic Museum of Australia opened its latest touring exhibition, Borderlands, by Professor Philip George from the Centre of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales.  This showcase will feature an array of 21 uniquely handcrafted surf boards, comprising the Inshalla series. Each fibre glass board is emblazoned with a swirl of patterns and symbolism that Phillip George, avid professor and surfer extraordinaire, has designed.

These markings reflect the experience of George’s journeying through the middle east, denoting definitive design styles of Mesopotamian, Babylonian and Umayyad dynasties, to name a few.   Further in overlaying these unique Islamic Art styles upon an iconic Australian symbol like a surfboard, George is deliberately juxtaposing the classic with the contemporary.

Beyond the visual splendour of these 21 imposing surfboards each with their amplified colours, is the 25 metre long panoramic image of an Australian coastline encircling  the surf board display on the surrounding wall – hemming in the viewer via a virtual border. And herein lies George’s political mandate; a condemnation of Australia’s brutal border security policy.  The notion that justice is washed up on the shore is thus covertly implied in image and overtly contained in text accompanying this exhibit, stating  “our closed borders may indeed tell us more about who we are rather than about those who we, as a nation, can at times be so vehemently opposed to allowing in… the sense of distance, disconnection and rejection is conveyed in the silent coastal landscape that stretches well beyond our view, well into the moral consciousness of our humanity”.

This is an evocative exhibition that gracefully delivers a slap to the system with its intelligent design, juxtapositioning of East and West and bold innuendo. Kudos to the artists who convey stories and messages with fierce beauty.