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In Australia, Trees Made Famous By Aboriginal Artist Fall To Suspected Arsonist

One of the "ghost gums," which fell to the ground after being set afire. i i

One of the "ghost gums," which fell to the ground after being set afire. Northern Territory Govt., Dept. of Attorney General & Justice hide caption

itoggle caption Northern Territory Govt., Dept. of Attorney General & Justice
One of the "ghost gums," which fell to the ground after being set afire.

One of the "ghost gums," which fell to the ground after being set afire.

Northern Territory Govt., Dept. of Attorney General & Justice

Two "ghost gum" trees that were revered by many in Australia after being made famous by Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira have been found toppled over and burned — victims of a suspected arsonist.

Albert Namatjira's "Ghost Gum, MacDonnell Ranges" (1953) from Christie's online catalog.

Albert Namatjira's "Ghost Gum, MacDonnell Ranges" (1953) from Christie's online catalog. Christie's hide caption

itoggle caption Christie's

The trees, in the outback near Alice Springs, were due to soon be put on Australia's national heritage register, The Guardian says. It adds that:

"Namatjira [who died in 1959] is credited with bringing the native trees — which are featured in Aboriginal Dreamtime stories and named for their white bark that glows in moonlight — to wider public consciousness as a symbol of Australian identity."

Susan McCulloch, author of The Encyclopedia of Australian Art, tells The Sydney Morning Herald that the destruction of the trees is an "appalling and a tragic act of cultural vandalism."

As the Herald writes, "Namatjira is one of Australia's best-known artists, his vivid watercolors bringing his deep familiarity with the desert into the lounge rooms of middle Australia, particularly the lands around the West MacDonnell Ranges, for which he was a traditional custodian. Rather than paint the desert as the dead heart, which painters such as Sidney Nolan did, Namatjira presented it as luminous with engaging individual qualities; he enabled the viewer to see the center as a multi-faceted region of Australia."

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