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Australian Pride Icon ‘The Progress Shark’s’ evolution

What if a massive model shark was dressed in a sparkling rainbow bathing suit?

The Progress Shark pitch was both “ridiculous” and “brilliant,” as is true of many excellent concepts. Progress Shark is a recent Australian viral sensation.

As Sydney prepares to welcome hundreds of thousands of people for the month-long World Pride festival beginning on Friday, the Australian Museum wants to design a colorful and distinctive sign to greet them.

A 10m great white, or white shark, was already on display in front of the museum at one of the busiest junctions in the city, which was a bit of a coincidence.

The chairwoman of the museum’s pride committee, Amanda Farrar, says, “We went: ‘OK, so how about we just cover it in a rainbow?'”

The outcome, according to its designers, is a queer celebration—a loud, vibrant, and tasselled salute to lycra.

And it’s unmistakably Australian—funny, irreverent, and stereotypically beach-ready.

According to Ms. Farrar, it has unintentionally become the symbol of world pride.

Progress Shark has drawn attention from all over the world, inspired innumerable jokes, and garnered devoted followers, including drag artist Courtney Act from Australia. Even its own Instagram fan page exists for it.

George Buchanan, the artist who realized the museum’s vision, had no idea Progress Shark would become so popular while she was making its outfit in her Sydney garage.

She told the BBC, “It’s a ridiculous option.

“Yet in truth, people are content because of that. Everyone, in my opinion, require a little humor in their life.”

“It’s this purportedly dangerous creature, but when you look at its face, it’s actually rather adorable. It grins with a really sly grin.”

A modernized version of the Pride flag designed in 2018, the shark’s couture suit is made up of 11 materials in diverse colors and textures that have been fashioned into two symmetrical “progress flags.”

The real issue was in outfitting it; creating swimmers for a shark is one thing.

The swimsuit had to be physically sewn onto the shark, which is suspended five meters in the air, by Ms. Buchanan and an assistant.

“We expected it to take about four hours, but it actually took about six or seven.”

A larger public art initiative honoring the coming of World Pride in Sydney includes Progress Shark.

The progress flag will be illuminated on the sails of the historic Opera House, Pride murals will be painted on Bondi Beach’s famed sea wall, and some of the city’s most well-known streets have been painted in rainbow hues.

A completely different response was given to the historic inaugural Mardi Gras march that passed through Sydney in 1978.

Police reacted quickly and violently when demonstrators peacefully marched past the area where they were allowed to do so. Frank Howarth, a student at the time who recalls seeing individuals being taken into police trucks by their hair and arms, says, “I remember garbage tins being flung through the air and people being dragged by the hair and arms and stuff like that.”

Those who were present recounted hearing individuals who were detained wail in agony from their jail cells as they were beaten.

In several Australian jurisdictions, including New South Wales, homosexuality is still illegal, and there is a constant undercurrent of terror throughout society.

I was aware that there were some locations you should avoid going to in order to avoid being attacked by thugs or, worse yet, trapped by police, Mr. Howarth said.

If any LGBT persons were to be detained, their names, addresses, and occupations would be made public in the media, among other things.

Also, there were the early rumblings of the murders motivated by homophobia.

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The New South Wales Police, often known as the “78ers,” who participated in the first Mardi Gras procession, received a formal apology in 2016; as a result, the police force now proudly marches in the parade.

That’s one indication of how Australia has changed in the years since the inaugural march, according to Mr. Howarth.

Both modest and significant changes have occurred.

Nowadays, discrimination based on a person’s gender or sexual orientation is illegal, with few religious exceptions. Homosexuality is also now legal, as is homosexual marriage. Very few oddities exist in terms of legal rights, according to Mr. Howarth.

On February 25, Anthony Albanese will participate in the Mardi Gras parade for the first time ever as a sitting prime minister.

The joyous occasions, however, also coincide with a heated uprising in the debate over the use of gay conversion therapy, which is still permitted in New South Wales.

Hence, Mr. Howarth contends that activism must continue to play a significant role in Mardi Gras, even though it has changed from being largely a protest to a celebration in Australia.

Although those rights had to be battled for, they might be readily revoked.

Even although we’ve come to the realization that not everyone is straight, talks regarding gender fluidity still need to advance.

But, Mr. Howarth, a former director of the Australian Museum who just so happens to be gay, says it is heartwarming to see Sydney decked out for World Pride.

“There is just a significant contrast when we go back to what life was like in 1978.”

He claims that while Progress Shark and other attractions are amusing, they are also powerful symbols of society’s expanding acceptance.

“There are jokes about not coming out of the closet but slamming the door down, and I believe the rainbow shark is a little bit of a symbol of that,” the author said.

“I grin because Anthony Albanese is in the procession and there are so many decorations all over the city.”

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