March 27th, 2014

An Insult to Bonds formed in Battle

In spite of the many hundreds of thousands of Australian and New Zealanders who, travelling to ANZAC, are treated as honoured guests, even family. In spite of the genuine and deeply held love and respect Turkish people feel toward those ANZACs, and their dependents, who were after all seeking to invade and occupy the Turkish homeland. In spite of the bonds of friendship that we thought had developed over the past 100 years, we are continually disappointed at the lack of reciprocation of such feelings over the years.

Another example has come to light. The Australian War Memorial, it seems, has seen fit to display a work of art that is at once insulting, as it is fanciful. Entitled “Evacuation”, what it actually depicts is the imaginary bronzed ANZAC soldier of legend, laconic and laid back, trampling on the Turkish flag, with a skull, no doubt a Turkish victim of this ANZAC superhero, at his feet.

ATA-A CEO Mr Ertunc Ozen said : “This sculpture is an insult not just to Turkish people, but to the sentiments of the ANZAC soldiers themselves. ANZAC soldiers may not have thought much of their Turkish opponents, before they met in battle. The error of this view was quickly apparent as the ANZACs were forced to respect the bravery and courage of an opponent fighting to save their homeland. The soldiers on both sides ended up with mutual admiration and respect. We doubt that any ANZAC soldier would, at the end of the campaign, endorse an image of an Australian standing on a Turkish flag.”

This is entirely at odds with what we understood the ANZAC tradition was meant to represent. We felt that all of us had moved past triumphalist assertions of superiority. We believed that ANZAC day, and the ANZAC tradition, was more of a sombre and solemn remembrance of sacrifice, and of the horror of war.

This sculpture, leaving aside its dubious artistic merit, is a tired representation of sentiments long since discredited, and now more than a little embarrassing. Those sentiments are entirely inconsistent with the respect and friendship that has developed between Australia and Turkey.

We also note that the sculpture can be nothing other than a work of pure fiction. The evacuation, following a disastrous defeat at the hands of the Turks, was anything but a laid back affair, and it is highly unlikely that any ANZAC soldier got to trample on the Turkish flag. Is this how Australians imagine the campaign developed? Is this really the image the AWM endorses?

We call on the AWM to immediately remove this artwork from display, and indeed, its collection. It has no place in a collection that is otherwise a worthy tribute to those who lost their lives on Gallipoli shores.