Sunday, April 22, 2007

Stars of Track and Field

The 'Three Proud People' mural on the side of a house near Macdonaldtown Station is one of my favourite pieces of Newtown street art. Not two proud people, but three.


The white guy in the picture, the third proud person, is Australian Peter Norman. He knew the African-American athletes, John Carlos and Tommie Smith, were planning to give the black-power salute during the ceremony and supported them by wearing a badge for the Olympic Project for Human Rights. He also suggested to them that they share their one pair of black gloves, which is why Smith has his left arm raised and Carlos his right. Norman died last year, and Smith and Carlos came to Australia to be his pall-bearers. They were quoted as saying that Norman deserved to be more famous that Steve Irwin.

I can't imagine any Australian Olympic athletes making a political statement like this today. Certainly not if it meant risking offending the United States. Carlos and Smith were expelled from the Olympics for this salute, and Norman was officially reprimanded. Despite qualifying, Norman was not picked for the 1972 Olympic athletics team.

RailCorp has recently erected a massive concrete sound barrier along the tracks at Macdonaldtown, completely obstructing the view of the mural.


I have written a letter to the Lord Mayor and the Minister for Transport calling for them to reproduce the mural on the other side of the barrier so you can see it again while trundling past on the train. If you'd like to voice your support for repainting the mural, feel free to write to me for a copy of my letter which you can conveniently modify and send on.

13 comments:

Nosey in Newtown said...

Update: Thanks to those who have written to lend their support, and thanks also to Matt Norman, the nephew of Peter, who has thrown his weight behind the campaign to have the mural repainted.

I'll make sure to keep you posted on any progress.

Anonymous said...

well done nosey in newtown activist!

suzysiu said...

You are on top of everything! I am so impressed with this blog.

lucazoid said...

aha! i have been hoarding this news article meaning to scan it in for ages. i loved cruising by mcd town station and seeing that mural, and was mighty annoyed when that ugly wall went up.
here's the dodgily scanned in news article. tis a bewdiful story:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/bilateral/476455530/
and here's the detail of the image which the mural artist must have worked from:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/bilateral/476462368/

Karen said...

I did always wonder what that was all about, during my hornsby via strathfield years...

CRANKY said...

UNREAL. I had noticed the mural's obstruction on the train and was disappointed, especially as I'd only recently discovered what it was all about (thanks to coverage of Peter Norman's death... what a champ). Those dudes are heroes. Meanwhile could you imagine Thorpie taking such a stand for anything other than a pink party shirt? Bah on modern athletes. And hooray for you for agitating.

Ginger said...

Good on ya enjoying your blog newtown and area is the suburbs of my wellspent teens -> 20s.

nisch said...

Heard about your site on FBi... I too was extremely saddened when railcorp decided to cover up one of the most important pieces of street art in Sydney...

Alex said...

While reproducing the mural on the new sound barrier will bring the tribute back into view, it smacks of inauthenticity. The mural is important street art, not just due to its message, but due to its character. Anonymous art on the side of an ageing terrace house alongside the tracks in a funky part of town. Some of us Sydneysiders thrive on these gems you glimpse on trains, buses, or just wandering around, and the great part is they are all unique, but not if we start copying them. Why not petition for a clear sound barrier (redwatch.org.au). Maintain the character and display the message. Repainting it really doesn't do such courage any justice.

Nosey in Newtown said...

Hi Alex

The nephew of Peter Norman, Matt (who has incidentally made a film about his uncle called "Salute"), agrees, saying the only solution is a transparent section in the sound barrier. Unfortunately this is not currently acceptable to the nearby residents.

Halfasheep said...

Hi all, well... I am the person who organised, funded (scaf hire, paint ect) and jointly painted this mural with the help of a couple of friends. We put it up quickly, and I have always wished the production was slightly better. It was put up approximately 6 weeks prior to the Sydney Olympics as railway workers were carefully cleaning the railway in prep for the games. Anyway, I contacted John Carlos who assured me I was not committing a copyright infringment of this image. I have a signed photo from him. I tried to contact Peter Norman but didn't have any luck at the time. I am not interested in putting the image back up on the sound barrier for multiple reasons. I am glad that people out there have appreciated the mural. It always was and is the message that counts.
I have a youtube account: Halfasheep. I'm going to make a video of it today! Cheers.

Pitchies said...

To lose the original mural would be so, so sad. I have been travelling past this mural for nearly 10 years on a weekly basis, and it always makes me smile and feel encouraged to stand up for what I believe in (in some small way).

I really hope that it somehow lives on!

Anonymous said...

The mural doesn't mean much to me. More try hard Aussie's trying to ingratiate themselves into Afro-American culture. But I hate the noise barrier. I doesn't protect us from noise and it's ugly. I just think they wanted to hide their planned demolition of Leamington Ave. Between government and developers soon their will be nothing left of Newtown. They want to destroy its blue collar roots. Go the Jets.