Isaac Julien has presented us with an historical and emotionally penetrating account of the life of Frederick Douglass. Art is meant to be challenging and inspiring – Julien’s installation certainly meets these criteria with its overpowering multiple images.
Douglass was liberated from slavery only to join the much larger cohort of those who suffer from continuing discrimination and poor longer-term health due only to their socio-economic positions in society. Like most enslaved children, he never knew his father, although it was likely to have been the slave owner, and he was separated from his mother before one year of age.
In recent years we have learned a lot about the importance of the first 1000 days from conception in determining development and lifetime health (DOHAD- Developmental Origin of Health and Disease Hypothesis). We see the importance of this in lower socio-economic groups, including the First Australians, and similar disadvantaged groups around the world. importance is found universally. Douglass was able to overcome this disadvantage and his lack of formal education to become an orator, essayist and editor and an advocate for his people.
Unfortunately, the health disadvantage of lower socio-economic groups continues to this day. Black Citizens in the USA and Australia have greater infant mortality and shorter life expectancy than other citizens. They have greater rates of heart disease, diabetes and cancer, higher rates of death from trauma and even in the rates of death and disability from COVID19. Douglass was the most photographed American of the 19th century and Julien has made good use of original and re-enacted images in this challenging installation.
Prof Colin Binns , AO, MBBS (UWA), MPH(Harvard), PhD(Inje), FRACGP, FAFOEM, FAFPHM is the John Curtin Distinguished Professor of Public Health, School of Public Health, Curtin University.
He worked in Papua New Guinea for 8 years and joined Curtin University in 1977 then became Foundation Head of the School of Public Health, a position he held for 21 years, including a period as the Foundation Director of the National Drug Research Centre.
Prof Binns has served on 20 committees of the National Health and Medical Research Council, and his work has included the Australian Dietary Guidelines and Infant Feeding Guidelines and similar work in in our region.
He has written for numerous publications, including 600 papers, books and chapters, on infant nutrition, health promotion, public health and related areas.
Honours include Officer of the Order of Australia, Research Australia Lifetime Achievement Award (for translation of science into public policy), Senior Australian of the Year (WA), and honorary PhD (Inje University, for nutrition research in Asia) and many other academic awards.
He is currently the Editor-in-Chief of the Asia-Pacific Journal of Public Health and also loves opera!