Green on Blue: The betrayal of trust

Place Asia: Afghanistan, Kandahar Province, Kandahar
Accession Number AWM2018.1052.1
Collection type Art
Measurement Sheet: 161 cm x 195 cm x 3 cm; Framed: 166 cm x 200 cm x 3 cm
Object type Work on paper
Physical description charcoal on snowdon archival paper
Maker Douma, Robert (Rob)
Place made Australia: Queensland, North Queensland, Townsville
Date made 09 July 2018
Conflict Afghanistan, 2001-2021

Item copyright: AWM Licensed copyright


‘Green on Blue: The betrayal of trust’ by artist and veteran Rob Douma was judged winner of the Memorial's 2018 Napier Waller Art Prize. Presented in partnership with Thales Australia, the University of Canberra and The Road Home, the Napier Waller Art Prize aims to promote artistic excellence, the healing potential of art for military personnel, and raise a broader awareness of the impact of service on the individual. In it's inaugural year, the Napier Waller Art Prize attracted over 100 entries.

Douma's work references the events on 29th October 2011, in Kandahar province, when an Afghan soldier calmly began firing his machine gun at twelve Australian soldiers who had been tasked with mentoring the Afghan Army. Three Australian soldiers and an Afghan interpreter were killed, another nine wounded.

Of his work Douma stated that his friend and former colleague Sergeant Robert Althofer recalled the confusion. It was a holiday period, during which Afghans would commonly fire into the sky. Althofer, who was shot in the leg, knows he cheated death that day and wonders if he had trained the betrayer. These attacks are known as “Green on Blue” and occur regularly, most often due to Taliban infiltration or defection. The threat of attacks within secure areas increases the already inherent danger of deployment.

Douma’s work references Caravaggio’s 'The Taking of Christ' to invoke the treachery and complexity of these attacks. Althofer’s lack of body armor and interlocked fingers symbolise vulnerability and unpreparedness. Afghan soldiers, frustrated and disapproving of the attack, attempt to provide aid; Althofer’s life was saved by a tourniquet. The chaos of the scene is captured in frenetic, expressive strokes of charcoal on paper – the medium itself becoming a metaphor for the ephemeral nature of life.