death by paper cut

{October 17, 2006}   Siev X & Canberra

TWO hundred white timber poles, each one decorated and named to represent victims of the SIEV X sinking, will be erected, briefly, along Canberra’s lakeshore tomorrow. The artwork, which will snake 300 metres down the hillside at Weston Park in Yarralumla, was to have stood as a memorial for three weeks, but the National Capital Authority only permitted a one-day display. The 200 white timber poles have each been named after a victim, and each one has been designed by a student artist. On October 19, 2001, 353 people drowned when their boat, later to become known as SIEV X, sank in international waters as it was heading for Christmas Island, where they were going to request asylum in Australia.

over the weekend, denise and i drove up 9 hours to canberra to witness the siev x memorial service. we had a personal stake in it in so far as to adopting poles to paint in remembrance of the tragedy.

It was through the University of Melbourne Chaplaincy that I first came across the tragedy of Siev X. With it came the opportunity have a personal stake in the memorial that is to be installed in Canberra. I think that it is remarkable for the tragedy of Siev X to have journeyed from relative obscurity – whether or not deliberately hushed up – to being designated a lasting place in the Capital of the very country that those in the boat hoped to belong.

By adopting a pole for the memorial to represent one life lost in its desperate struggle to find a better place, we endeavor to appeal to everyone who see or know of the memorial to respect the basic foundation of humanity – which is to reach out a helping hand to those who need it, in the same way that the fishermen independently went out of their way to search for survivors.

At the moment, we do not have details as to why the engine failed or why the two ships near Australian waters steered away from people in obvious dire straits, but what is clear to all are the recognizable human traits that those in the boat possessed, which are none other than the desire to reunite with loved ones, the instinct to fend for our own children and the length we would all go to fulfill those aims. Transcending all political intentions, it is these binding commonalities that I hope to etch into the painting of our pole in the Siev X memorial.

Taking the space of three quarters of the painted area is the blazing orange sky meeting calm blue seas. The blazing orange represents the promising dawn of a new day and endless potential it brings. The blue sea is depicted still and calm, surrendering itself to the glorious break of a new day. The green creepers lining the borders of the painted area indicates new growth, reinforced with budding flowers to represent new beginnings. The crowning flora itself is a wreath to express our heartfelt condolences while the new life in the form of the flowers journey with the survivors in their road to recovery and the continued hope for a better future.

I believe that art and its expression its a beautifully levelling platform. Especially in the context of contributing to the Siev X Memorial Project, no one pole is less or more aesthetic or sincere than the other. No pole was ‘auditioned’ or refused because of bad work. I loved all the 200 poles held up by their respective owners that day but among which, here are some of my favourites.

The average person would think that Canberra, being located so far inland and in the middle of nowhere isn’t worth a trip. I beg to differ, but then again, travel destinations are dependent on individual preferences. I enjoy big, well-planned museums, contemplative war memorials, sprawling national parks and opportunities for interesting photography, all of which Canberra is well endowed with. To top it off, I had the good opportunity to meet up with a friend residing in Canberra over a lovely home cooked dinner. She is one of those like-minded gem of a friend who I was able to instantly connect with. In fact, she specially bought the national Singaporean fruit i.e. the infamous Durian for dessert just because a fellow Singaporean was visiting.

Before I finally depart for home at the end of next year, I will definitely make another trip to Canberra to fully soak in all it has to offer.

interesting! no wonder you had those little cute drawings in ur flickr that i din quite really get it. =)

now i do.


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