Sunil Badami on Frederick McCubbin

Part of a series of new perspectives on portraiture commissioned for Archie Plus

Frederick McCubbin

On the wallaby track

1896
oil on canvas
Purchased 1897

As a kid, I remember this family coming to life in a Kit Kat advert. I still expect them to sometimes!

How hard it must have been for them to leave everything behind in the hope of a better future, especially since where they were seemed so alien and arduous.

I’m reminded of my own parents when they settled here, though immigrants have never been as celebrated as settlers in Australia’s art or history.

And I see my mother, far from her homeland, making a new life here. Did she wonder how long she’d be stuck in this strange place, or how it might change who she was, trying to remember everything she never imagined she’d forget?

This year, in which the coronavirus exiled many of us at home, we have found ourselves caught between the past we thought we knew and a future we cannot envisage, immigrants in a strange new world where nothing will ever be the same again – especially us.

Sunil Badami, bon vivant, raconteur, flâneur. Westie, Kit Kat eater, Sushila’s son

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