Two decades ago, footballer Nicky Winmar made a powerful statement.
On April 17, 1993 at the conclusion of the Collingwood-St Kilda game at Victoria Park, Winmar turned to Collingwood fans, raised his St Kilda jumper, pointed at his stomach and said “I’m black and I’m proud to be black” in response to racial taunts.
From today until the end of the year, the National Sports Museum will reflect on the impact of Winmar’s protest with a new showcase, Black and Proud: A stand against racism.
The exhibition features never-before-seen images captured of Winmar before and after his momentous gesture, as well as a selection of images and objects that demonstrate how the moment continues to be relevant today.
On display is a collection of posters, artworks and photographs that reflect the gesture, including work from Melbourne-based street artist Regan Tamanui (aka HAHA), paintings by Indigenous artists Hudson Dinah and Dan Kelly, and cartoons by Rocco Fazzari and Peter Nicholson.
The Aboriginal All Stars guernsey of Melbourne Football Club player Neville Jetta has also been included as a symbol of what Winmar’s legacy has meant for others.
“It is fitting that on the 20th anniversary of Winmar’s powerful gesture, the National Sports Museum celebrates the impact that Winmar’s action has had both on sport in Australia and as a symbol of pride for Indigenous Australians,” said Matthew Klugman, guest curator of the exhibition and co-author of a forthcoming book which tells Winmar’s powerful story.
“It’s hard to think of a more important popular Australian image over the last two decades. It’s up there with the 1968 Black Power Salute as a defining image of race and sport, and its enduring significance can be seen in the way it continues to be shown over and over again – in newspapers, posters, galleries and on city walls.”
Despite the TV cameras missing the moment, photographers Wayne Ludbey and John Feder captured the gesture on film and their poignant images, which now feature in the exhibition, were published the following day in Melbourne newspapers.
“It was a very courageous and symbolic thing that Winmar did,” said Wayne Ludbey, who was a photographer for The Sunday Age at the time.
“I was close enough to hear Winmar say “I’m black and I’m proud to be black” and I knew straight away the significance of his brave act.
“It was International Year of Indigenous Peoples in 1993 and the focus should have been on celebrating footballers’ athletic abilities, rather than fighting against racial vilification,” said Ludbey.
“I’m really pleased that 20 years on we’re able to pay tribute to Winmar and the impact his actions have had on changing Australia’s attitude towards racism.”
Curators of the exhibition, Matthew Klugman (Victoria University) and Gary Osmond (University of Queensland) are also writing a book on Winmar’s symbolic act.
The National Sports Museum is located at Gate 3, MCG, Yarra Park, Jolimont and is open daily from 10am to 5pm.
Access to Black and Proud: A stand against racism is included in standard museum entry.