'UGLY' portraits started in a matey, endearing manner, bubbling away in the Pitcha Makin Fellas body of work more for fun than exhibition.
The notion of ugly evolved as factors of racism, money and power changed how Pitcha Makin Fellas looked at football, the game they most loved.
Still, the Fellas find football is a tool that unites the nation - people laughing, crying, shouting and back next week for more. This is what they hope to celebrate in the Join the Club, featuring a series of Ugly portraits, in Ballarat Art Gallery's latest exhibition.
Ugly started as a humorous way to look at the game as Pitcha Makin Fellas chatted footy while they worked in the middle of the 2015 season.
Western Bulldogs chose the Ballarat group's design for AFL Indigenous Round a year later on the' Doggies road to premiership glory. Within a year the Fellas were locked in a licensing dispute with the AFL that while now settled, took a toll on the men.
Pitcha Makin Fellas assistant Peter Widmar said each was abused as young Aboriginal men on the football field. Mr Widmar said they were told sledging was part of the game but this went way beyond the field in cultural oppression.
READ AN ACCOUNT FROM PETER-SHANE ROTUMAH BELOW
I've played a lot of footy and still do even at 43. Footy was fun for me when I was growing up. I liked the crashing and bashing and I liked the contest on and off the field. I did get called lots of different names, the normal ones you know like abo, boong and little black c*** (which mainly came from the parents). I never accepted it because it hurt, but it was the fuel to make me play better. The more fire they threw at me, the more I used it to play harder. One day I kicked 17 goals from the centre. Even when I was playing in the Central Highlands country footy competition as recently as four years ago, similar racist sledging occurred. I'm still playing in the over 35s AFL Victorian Country Masters competition and its awesome, there's none of that racist stuff. It must be that they've learned something when they get to that age.Peter-Shane Rotumah, Pitcha Makin Fellas
Their 'Ugly' portraits show Ballarat football export Robert Muir, known to be an angry young man but also a talented and incredibly hard-working footballer at St Kilda.
A senior Saints teammate pulled him aside one day and warned him to slow down his training for fear of putting others to shame for training and running about like a 'mad sheep dog'. This rebuke on his enthusiasm was twisted by media into portraying anger and violence as a 'mad dog'.
Eddie 'Muguire' features for his "working-class boy made good" and passion for the game twisted by demeaning those who do not fit his narrow view of 'matey' fun, most prominently leading football writer Caroline Wilson and his racist comments about decorated Sydney Swan Adam Goodes.
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"Much of what this shows comes from a simple premise with breadth and depth that is far more important." Mr Widmar said. "Humour is an essential part of what they do but that doesn't demean the fact it is serious too...Nothing is all good or all bad, it is how we involve ourselves in them."
The Fellas also explore in two images the many Aboriginal nations that make up what we know as Australia with trade and cultural pathways. These images flank a central panel showing the 18 AFL tribes across the nation, bringing people together in the community of the game.
Join the Club opens at Ballarat Art Gallery on August 1.
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