Atong Atem


When I think about equality, I think about a future where equality and diversity are a given; not necessary utopian, but more diverse and equal than our present. We often look forward to imagine a better or brighter reality than the one we currently exist in, because the natural response to progress is to imagine it in relation to time, and to imagine time as linear experience. My future is one where we look to our past as much as we look to an imagined future; not only to learn from the errors of the past but to also meditate on the things that worked, the things we’ve forgotten, and the things that we’ve left behind in pursuit of linear progress.
Most of my worldview and my politics around equality stem from equal rights movements headed by trans women of colour in New York, Black womanists and punks, those fighting their own governments and societies and people who came to conclusions and realizations decades before me that many in my generation claim to be new and progressive.

I think about my community in Narrm (Melbourne) on Wurundjeri land and the inherent diversity of communities who centre truth, honesty and genuine care for one another, and the inherent diversity of past communities that inspire us.
I specifically chose to emulate the 70s because of the parallels between the punk and disco communities and the communities that I see around me now; communities that celebrate diversity, openly discuss the politics we live and create art and music that is so of rich and beautiful because of it’s honesty.

When I imagine a future of diversity, I see it happen on a foundation of the past.