THE BOAT 2013
I arrived in Pondicherry on the East coast of India and checked into a guesthouse in December 2012—a week or so before the apparent end of the world, as predicted by the Mayan calendar. My top floor room afforded me a view of the ocean a kilometre away, beyond a decaying shipyard, a weedy cricket pitch and a pile of stinking garbage. I contemplated the crows, dogs, and black pigs fighting over the fresh garbage dumped three floors below. In the middle distance rusted iron hulks waited for salvage work on the banks of a river of sewage while skeletal figures squatted around a smoking fire of plastic bags.
I drew pigs, dogs and crows in my journal and read translations of Advaita Vedanta where the illusory world is described as a treacherous ocean (samsara) that the incarnate soul (jiva) must traverse; the body and life are the boat. A vision of rusted ships rotting majestically on the shores of the Pondicherry sewer was fixed in my speculations and drawings. A series developed wherein a figure pulled a boat along the ground, carried a boat on his head, or sat in a boat accompanied by a pig. The images were melancholy and the barren spaces like the countryside in parts of India but also like the country in Australia.
I pictured myself in the narrative that was unfolding in the drawings. Although I like to think of myself as a spiritual pilgrim, or an artist doing research, in India I am a tourist and a consumer of all the goods and services associated with tourism. In my regular life I also buy clothes, movies, international flights and wine. The bad guys in this End-Of-The-World disaster movie would seem to be me. I am addicted to everything and anything—action, entertainment, travel, intoxication, news, information, stimulation and simulation. I demand heat without chopping wood. I expect food without hunting or gathering.
Back in Darwin, while I was painting these paintings, refugees from Afghanistan, Iran and Sri Lanka were arriving in Australia by boat to seek asylum, only to be detained and imprisoned by Australian authorities as “illegals”. The cruel and inhumane treatment of these desperate people disgusts me. All Australians, apart from the Indigenous people who have been there for more than 60,000 years at least, have arrived there in the last 200 years. That Australia now closes its doors to people in great need, who are for the most part fleeing persecution, tyranny and war in their home countries (where the Australian military has often been a participant), is for me a great shame.
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© 2019 by Cornelius DELANEY. All rights reserved