A Laugh and a Tear
Destiny Deacon is a descendant of the KuKu (Far North Queensland) and Erub/Mer (Torres Strait) people. Deacon’s practice is bold and unapologetic, rather than shying away from ‘hard’ truths she embraces them to create work that is brilliantly dark and humorous. Deacon reflects history back to the viewers and asks, “Ok, now what?”
One of the first works I saw of Destiny Deacons was her photograph Where’s Mickey? from 2002. The figure, an Indigenous male dressed in woman’s clothing, stands in what looks to be a lounge room with a makeshift sheer backdrop covering a window. The figure wears large, cartoon like shoes, rounded ears and white gloves – all obvious references to the character of the title of the work, Mickey Mouse. There is a lot to unpack in this one image, something that is typical of Deacon’s practice – there is always more than what you see at first glance. There is humour, tongue firmly
in cheek, a little nudge of the shoulder,
a sly smile that you share between friends because you are all in on the joke. In this particular image, Deacon subverts both gender and racial stereotypes and structures, giving voice to those that are continually excluded from mass media.
Growing up as a Pacific Island heritage child in Aotearoa New Zealand, I would travel to Auckland for holidays and spend time with my mother’s family. We seemed to always be laughing. Even when things seemed sad, there would be a quiet moment and then an aunty or uncle would crack a joke and we would all be laughing. I once asked Mum why it was that her family always seemed to be laughing compared to my father’s very straight laced, middle class white family of farmers. She looked at me and shrugged: “Because if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.” Deacon adds another spin to the saying: “Or as I say, ‘a laugh and tear in every picture’.” I grew up with people . .. Subscribe to read this article in full