by Graham Rowlands

Graham Rowlands

They're going to fill in Sydney Harbour with Namatjiras.
The whites, the blacks are going to Namatjira the Harbour.
The galleries will take the originals out of airconditioning.
The private collectors will make their token gestures.
ASIO will computerize the names & addresses of
every newsagent, souvenir shop & novelty counter.
All tea towels, bath mats, ash trays will be confiscated.
Not a single key-ring or pen-knife will escape them,
not a single transfer onto a toilet roll holder---
let alone a Hong Kong nulla nulla made of balsa.

Every atom of every rock, every dust-mote of every creekbed
that would or could or might have been painted & signed
by the great grand nieces & nephews of the late Albert
will be turned into triple compensation in advance for
not being yet another relative of the once great Namatjira.
The Land Councils will authorize full scale mining of
all his famous hills, cliffs, ridges, ranges, gullies
irrespective of whether there's anything to mine or not.
His stately old gums will be put to the chainsaw.

Won't there be one grown up small boy or girl, though,
somewhere in New Holland, New Portugal or Terra Australis
who'll speak up for growing up with a Namatjira print
before Albert became the last of a long tribal line of
English landscape painters no one wants to know---
least of all the Stone Age tradition straight out of
caves into the National Gallery & $200 art books
strongly influenced by twentieth century Modernism
even 39,000 years before Pablo Picasso?

On the 200th year to the day, what will it be---
the heat, the euphoria, the communal champagne
or the piled up debris of all those Namatjiras
that sets Albert walking across Sydney Harbour
like the second coming of the First Fleet

or just some white art teacher's "Albert Namatjira"
with one old fashioned nose, one old fashioned mouth,
both ears intact, two eyes looking dead ahead
no nail marks, no spear in his side, no Cross,
not even the smell of something on his breath,
young Albert walking on millions of old Alberts---
ahead of him, the Great South Land, the island continent,
the inland sea & a whole future of white citizenship.

Last updated September 18, 2022