Albert Namatjira’s ghost gums burned down

By AAP with AG staff 7 January 2013
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Ghost gums that feature in important Albert Namatjira paintings from central Australia have been seriously damaged.

TWO GHOST GUMS near Alice Springs made famous by the work of Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira have been badly damaged in a fire.

The gum trees appear in some of Namatjira’s best known works. The trees also featured on a stamp and in the song I Am Australian. They were found burned on 30 December just as they were being considered for inclusion on a heritage register.

The Northern Territory government said it was thought the fire was deliberately lit, but police later said there was no arson investigation. Efforts are under way to try and rejuvenate the trees from the ashes.

Iconic trees of Central Australia

Northern Territory Minister for Indigenous Advancement Alison Anderson says the trees are special to many people who love and admire the Namatjira.

“In his watercolours he brought the beauty of the Central Australian landscape to the world and helped make it a symbol of Australian identity,” she says.

Kriss Borgan from the Mbantua Gallery and Cultural Museum in Alice Springs says it was sad the iconic gums had burned down: “I guess you get disappointed in people who may have gone and done something like that.”

Kriss said many people travelling out of Alice Springs visited the site, which was just 16km from the town.

Albert Namatjira’s famous paintings

Recently work had been undertaken around the trees to try and protect them from fires and allow as much moisture as possible to get to their roots.

Albert Namatjira, an Arrernte man from Central Australia, painted about 2000 artworks during his life and died aged 57 in 1959.

He is best known for his watercolour paintings of the Australian outback.

One of Namatjira's outback scenes
One of Albert Namatjira’s outback scenes