Friday, June 21, 2024

The freedom of the press still furnishes that check upon government which no constitution has ever been able to provide – Chicago Tribune.

HomeIssue 7Let's say sorry to Mark Egan

Let's say sorry to Mark Egan

It is possible to feel a bit of sympathy for Mark Egan. He was asked to create a statue of John McDouall Stuart for the Freemasons, who in turn gifted his work to the Alice Springs Town Council. Included in the gift was the cost of installing it on Council lawns.
Then all hell broke loose.
First there was a perceived lack of sufficient public consultation with the Council’s Public Arts Advisory Committee getting its nose seriously out of joint.
Then Stuart’s rifle took on a life of its own. Was this one reason why there was so little public consultation? Funnily enough, I don’t remember hearing any objection to the Anmatjera Man, another work by Mark Egan, leaning on his spear.
Of course, back when Stuart and the Anmatjera Man were contemporaries and walked this country together, white men carried rifles and black men carried spears. We all know that, and contrary to the more excitable among us, neither used their respective tools primarily against each other.
Whatever, the installation went ahead as planned. I suspect this was primarily a face saving gesture on the part of our Town Council. It seems they really, REALLY, don’t like being told.
Then the statue was taken down (same day – what foolishness!) and went into storage. And there it has lain for what is now going on four years.
During this time the Freemasons have walked away from the whole kerfuffle, and I can’t say I blame them.
And the bit of sympathy for Mark Egan? Because he is a gifted local artist with several works to his credit, and he is deserving of much more respect than has been shown him during this tawdry political affair.
Anyway, the end is nigh. Council has bitten the bullet and will spend our rates to erect the statue of Stuart in Stuart Park on Stuart St in Alice Springs, a town once named Stuart.
So I guess we can say Stuart’s been squared, and let’s hope that’s the end of it!
The only thing left is to set aside a bit of dosh to repair any vandalising that may, but hopefully won’t, occur.


  1. Perhaps the story went more like this: The statue is Les Pilton’s project, which he initiated, drove and paid for out of his own pocket because his Lodge bore the name of the explorer in whom he had an interest.
    His Lodge acquiesced and the statue became associated with this lodge – but the statue was not initiated by the McDouall Stuart Freemason’s lodge, most of whom I believe, wished they’d never heard of the giant monument and would possibly prefer to get back to their worthwhile fundraising for Prostate Cancer research. Oh, and Les – please pick up the phone when the media rings you, rather than leave your issues for the Brethren to sort out.

  2. Why do we need to write a letter of apology … Mark Egan completed a task that was asked of him, and I presume he was paid for it … End of story.

  3. I agree with Desert Rat. There is no need for any apology.
    What is in danger of going missing in this dialogue is what I did point out – that the artist has been paid scant respect as the political infighting over a statue’s placement took over. So a touch of consideration would probably not go astray.
    Without having asked the man, I can imagine he is as sick of the whole drama as Jenny indicates the majority of the Freemasons are.
    And Council will now spend our rates to erect it. Upwards of $100,000, give or take, and I wonder what the four-year storage bill came to.
    What a balls-up!
    But on the positive side, perhaps a lesson was learned. I didn’t hear a word of controversy over the placement of the sculpture at the entrance to the new and improved town tip.

  4. “… white men carried rifles and black men carried spears. We all know that, and contrary to the more excitable among us, neither used their respective tools primarily against each other.’
    Readers might like to look up well known local historian Dick Kimber’s monograph ‘The end of the bad old days: European settlement in Central Australia 1871-94’ delivered as an oration in NT Library (Eric Johnson lecture, Dick wore a tie!), published as Occasional Paper No. 25 State Library of the NT. Available in the town library and on the web.
    The old Martini Henry got a fair work out in those ‘bad old days’ as documented copiously by Dick. Especially by the mounted police of the day, some brutal incidents.
    Several decades later ‘The Coniston Massacre’ took place, an event that shocked the Federal Government of the day, and the Australian population generally.
    Although Stuart himself was generally successful at avoiding using rifles against the natives (apart from Attack Creek), it is not over-excitable to conclude the rifle was the weapon that subjugated the indigenous inhabitants of Central Australia.

  5. I truly hope someone recognises the gamut of sculpture Mark has contributed to Australia.
    Yes, I know him. For one year, 1975, he graced the country with his beauty, his understanding.
    I’m happy to have followed his growth though arts. Let’s hope Mark was paid.

  6. The man is an artist, simple. You ask for interpretation the artist will give you just that, the interpretation, through his eyes. That’s what artistes do.


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