Canberra (dpa) - The opera in Sydney has just shown who the Australians are particularly grateful for: images of firefighters glowing on the famous sails.
Heavy fires have been raging on the continent for months. This is also felt by the art and culture scene. In cities, universities, museums and galleries closed when the air outside became too thick. In a village on the southeast coast, art of the aborigines went up in flames, certainly not the only loss for the Aborigines. One of the most important collections in the country had to be brought to safety.
French actress Isabelle Adjani got into trouble in January when she canceled her appearance at the local film festival because of the smoke that moved to Sydney. Festival director Wesley Enoch was really upset about it. That is "incredibly disappointing" and "very demoralizing". That's not how you treat the city, Enoch told the Sydney Morning Herald.
According to the newspaper, Adjani said for medical reasons that she had respiratory problems and that her health would be seriously endangered by a trip to the Australian metropolis. Enoch referred to experts and did not accept that. The air is no longer so bad and has improved a lot. Adjani later added that she had canceled out of respect for the victims of the disaster. It is not fitting to fly to Australia now and breathe the filtered cinema air, she wrote in the French newspaper "Le Monde".
The "Bundanon Trust" art center in the Australian bush south of Sydney has completely different concerns. "Closed until further notice", says the homepage. There more than 3800 works of art had to be saved from the flames. The collection (estimated at 27 million euros) includes works by leading Australian artists such as Arthur Boyd, Sidney Nolan and Charles Blackman.
Boyd (1920-1999) is an icon in his home country as a landscape painter. "His bush is the Australian equivalent of Monet's water lilies," said the head of the Boyd Foundation, Deborah Ely, the German press agency. Boyd was clearly ahead of today's society when it comes to the environment. "He would have been shocked to see the way we ignored the signs of climate change."
In early January, the fire came so close to the site that the evacuation began overnight. A logistical challenge that took five trucks. Before the first load made it out of the danger zone, foundation head Ely was nervous and worried. With the help of art transportation experts, the treasures were brought to a warehouse in Sydney. "It is a relief to know that the collection is now safe," said Ely. The site burned down, the houses in two places survived the fires.
The historical relationship of the Australians to the bush fires was the subject of an exhibition before the current catastrophe came. "Fires have been an important part of Australian history for millennia," said Martha Sear of the National Museum in Canberra, the capital. The exhibition showed which cultural techniques the Aborigines used, or the remains after fires like melted coffee cups.
"Fire has always been a source of great fear, but also something that Australians know they have to live with," said Sear. She thinks: Maybe that's where the public spirit and the very widespread voluntary work with the fire department come from. "It connects us and brings us together." As common as the fires are, this time they are different from everything else, according to Sear.
A new permanent position, “Life in Australia”, will also deal with climate change, bush fires and the challenges for the environment. The museum expert suspects that the Australian lifestyle could change. For example, on vacation when people drive to the sea by Christmas in the Australian summer. "But that could be the most dangerous point in the future."
As Sear said, the museum didn't have to close when the air in Canberra went bad because of its good filter systems. Many people would have sought protection from the heat and smoke there. The number of visitors rose.
Sydney Morning Herald report
Museum in Bundanon