As the daughter of a Scottish father and Somali mother, Susan Maco Forrester’s skin colour has defined her identity all her life.
The artist, who debuted her first solo exhibition at the Wyndham Art Gallery last week, said she spent her childhood confused by black and white cultures.
Her experiences have included spending her childhood travelling the world while her father was in the British Air Force. That offered her unique glimpses into the way her colour was viewed by different cultures.
“I’d be in Kenya and they’d call me white then I’d be in England and they’d call me black,” she said.
In her exhibition, Identity, Maco Forrester explores cultural heritage and racism through videos, sculptural objects and photos.
An enduring theme in the exhibition is the golliwog.
In one of her pieces, a video, Maco Forrester paints herself in “black face”, dons a curly black wig and talks about the humiliating experience of being identified with a racist caricature.
Maco Forrester said many people, particularly in Australia, viewed golliwogs as harmless toys.
She said that for most black people, golliwogs were an offensive reminder of the way they are diminished because of their skin colour.
“Most Anglo Australians don’t even think about identity for themselves,” he said. “My identity is very layered.”
Identity is at the Wyndham Art Gallery, 177 Watton Street, Werribee, until March 6.