William Ricketts is a sculptor whose massive art collection is based on Aboriginal people. His sanctuary is situated in the heart of the Dandenongs forest.
This post is dedicated to Emmo and Taylor. To Emmo, because nature and foliage remind me of your artwork. To Taylor, because as expats we see things others don’t.
Before coming to Australia, my dear friend Marie tells me of a man who owned a property, created hundreds of sculptures, and after he passed away the people uncovered his massive art collection1. Last July, while researching attractions for Yarra Valley, I come across the William Ricketts Sanctuary. The description matches what Marie told me. I am ecstatic. I must see these sculptures.
It is out of the way for our Yarra Valley trip, so when Haruka tells me we are going to Arthurs Seat, I convince her to take us to Seawinds Gardens to see the 4 or 5 of William Ricketts’ sculptures. They are small pieces that feel out of place. Dissatisfied, I tell myself, I must see this sanctuary.
Come December, when Ariel and I have a weekend off (the irony!), we head to the Dandenongs to fulfill my wish. Why is this place so appealing?
1The actual story of William Ricketts is slightly different from the story of my memory. More about William Ricketts on Wikipedia.
William Ricketts’ Hidden Messages of Love & Peace
Not knowing what to expect and not reading much about it, I allow myself to observe. I am easily captivated by the tranquility of this place.
I learn Ricketts had a fascination of Aboriginal culture and people. He lived with them in Central Australia and considered himself part of the Pitjantjatjara nation. His sculptures focused on Aboriginal subjects.
Ricketts integrated them with their natural surroundings – faces and bodies growing out of stones, arms and legs extend into branches and roots.
From time to time, I see sculptures with a white man. What contrast. I later find out that these are self-portraits; Ricketts liked to include himself in his sculptures.
Racism: White Australia
One piece in particular stands out to me. It emphasizes Ricketts’ view on White Australia.
The description says:
I am the one who collects tax blood money from the sale and use of the so called sporting gun.
I am the same one who starts all bush fires going I live by this indiscribable cruelty and I will have more and more of it every year.
As a nation the brute in Australia two hundred years ago I landed here and wrote the law of this land on the end of a gun barrel and arsenic of poison ever since I have been shooting and looting raping burning and poisoning traping birds and animals millions of koalas possums lyre birds evthing the aboriginal people regarded as sacred.
I am parasite and destroyer paid much much money to kill of Australias wildlife and grab their environments I lead science and technology and paid to regard nothing as sacred I hate and revolt against the highest life and in try fury will trample tear or crucify any devine power that has the presumption to offer to make life pure and luminous.
Sometimes it takes an outsider to see the flaws and wrongdoings of someone else. If we’re lucky, we will see from the eyes of an outsider the flaws and wrongdoings of ourselves.
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