2015, Oil on Italian Linen, 120 x 100cm

Doug Moran Portrait Painting Prize 2015, Juniper Hall, Sydney


Abdul Abdullah is a seventh generation Australian with an unfashionable name. Growing up as a Muslim in Perth features prominently in his artwork. His story builds upon the existing narratives of martyrdom in race, war, gender and religion. And for his efforts, he has received hate mail. 

A boxer as well as artist, the parallels between Abdul and Ali are compelling. In 1968 at the height of his career Muhammad Ali was stripped of his Olympic Gold Medal and forbidden to compete. Being a conscientious objector on religious grounds was only accepted if that religion was Christianity. So in effect Ali’s crime was being a Muslim. Esquire magazine’s depiction of him in homage to Rubens’ martyrdom of Saint Sebastian captured the essence of his struggle. Heard before the Supreme Court, Ali ultimately won the battle and lost the fight. Allowed to compete once more, his best years were by then behind him. 

Hopefully Abdul’s voice will remain a potent force for many years to come.