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5 Creative Questions with… Peter Drew

Artist Peter Drew is perhaps best known for his AUSSIE poster series, along with posters that declare, loudly and boldly, REAL AUSTRALIANS SAY WELCOME. These posters, as Buzzfeed puts it, intend to encourage people to rethink their views on asylum seekers and immigrants in Australia. I am completely aware of the date on which I am writing this, on the unceded lands of the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation. I am the child of two migrants who made their life here.

The people in the AUSSIE posters have beautiful faces. To me, Kanichi Shiosaki is a matinee idol type who wouldn't be out of place in a classic movie. Monga Khan looks like a prince. Nellie Chin, in a way that tugs a specific string in my heart, reminds me of women in my family. What they all have in common: they are people who lived in Australia and were made to apply for exemptions to the dictation test which was a function of the White Australia Policy. The exemption allowed them to leave Australia and return without being racially excluded, as Peter explains. He is currently crowd-funding a campaign to give AUSSIE posters to schools.

A poster by Peter Drew depicts Bejah Dervish, a then-28-year-old photographed on Rundle Street, Adelaide, in 1890. Image: courtesy of Peter Drew Arts

Peter Drew is the 21st in my series of creatives to take five questions.

When my creative process is stuck, I reach for… music. There's nothing better to brush off those cobwebs and loosen things up when you need to.

The weirdest thing about being a creative human is… rediscovering the parts of yourself that sometimes lie dormant. I think it's very easy to lose touch with aspects of your mind and it's reassuring when you uncover them without too much trouble. But when you can't make that connection it can be very troubling, and weird.

The most unusual object in my house is… a yak's hoof from Tibet. I was there in 2006 and found it on a trail. I have a bunch of trinkety stuff from travelling.

I celebrate my achievements by… having a dinner date with Julie. She keeps me grounded because she understands the cycle of emotions that accompany all creative endeavours. The peaks are generally followed by troughs so it's important to not get too ahead of yourself. Julie and I have been married for almost 14 years. Understanding each other creatively has been the glue of our relationship from the very beginning.

Something in the world that already exists that I wish I had created is… I know I'm meant to give a creative answer but it's too personal so I'll say The Adelaide Botanic Gardens. They're criminally underrated.

Support Peter Drew's AUSSIE Posters for Schools Pozible campaign here. Learn more about Peter Drew at Peter Drew Arts.

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