ACT News


Gang-gang: Scores of lanterns to illuminate Peace Vigil

Today's column is about to natter about the looming annual Anzac Day eve Canberra Peace Vigil. But surely one of the problems with peace vigils, a sceptic might say (even a leftie, bleeding heart, militarism-deploring sceptic like this columnist) is that they do nothing to thaw the permafrost in the hearts of truculent, war-like leaders.

And one of our illustrations today is of clever new busts of three such frosty leaders. They are Russia's Vladimir Putin, North Korea's Kim Jong-un and late UK PM Margaret Thatcher (the latter a swaggering shedder of blood over the Falkland Islands). And the works are not just busts, but are also bluetooth sound-system speakers created by Russian artist Petro​ Wodkins.

Handcrafted in Sweden and made of a "marble-like material", they are available in a very, very limited edition. Sales pitches have been accompanied by witty slogans such as "Vladimir Putin has never sounded this good", and "Maggie speaks again". 

"The series," Wodkins has told splendid online arts zine IGNANT "features powerful people who, in their own way, played the world like instruments and made countries and continents alike march to the beat of their metaphorical drums".

One exciting idea kindled by these works is that Australian political parties, at the moment so unimaginative when it comes to creating party merchandise, might find inspiration here. What truly believing Labor home wouldn't leap at a pair of speakers, a Gough Whitlam and a Ben Chifley? Liberals at home could amplify their awful tastes in music (horrors such as The Beautiful Blue Danube played by Andre Rieu) through a marble-like bust/speaker of Sir Robert Menzies in one corner of the room and a bust/speaker of John Howard in another corner.

But enough of frivolous fantasy and back to the important Canberra Peace Vigil. 


Its organisers declare that "Canberra people in the lantern-lit procession planned for this Anzac Eve's Peace Vigil will be in step with all those Australians who want a shift from commemorating wars towards finding the ways to peace".

Johanna McBride from the choir A Chorus of Women says: "The 101st year since the Anzacs' campaign at Gallipoli is a critical transition point in moving public rhetoric away from the impact of past wars on Australian culture to questions about the kind of country and world we are shaping for our children and grandchildren. While we remember and grieve for those who lost their lives in war, we can't keep doing Anzac Day the same way for another 100 years!"

The Canberra Peace Vigil, beginning on the evening of 24 April each year, is the sort of different way she envisages our "doing" Anzac Day.

Vigil organisers advise that: "The Anzac Eve Peace Vigil will begin at sunset on top of Mt Ainslie. Elders will welcome everyone to that special place, with its view out over country and city. The peace lanterns will be lit. Laments, love songs, community singing, the quiet lantern-lit walk down Mt Ainslie to the forecourt of the War Memorial for storytelling, poetry and songs followed by a night watch round a campfire near the lake with a cup of soup – all these elements help us to remember how much we cherish peace, as well as the terrible human and environmental cost of every war … Vigil is also a way to broaden our commemorations. In many cultures the eve of important religious festivals is set aside to open people's hearts through quiet reflection."

Peace vigilists can sometimes seem like pixies, not living in the real world of real people as they really are. But even pebble-hearts like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un (and Margaret Thatcher if she is looking on from Heaven) would surely be impressed by the lantern-spangled spectacle of the procession down Mt Ainslie. This year there will be 185 lanterns. They are made by peace activist and master lantern maker Graeme Dunstan. In our picture, taken last week, he is surrounded by his lanterns in their trove/store room at the Silver Wattle Quaker Centre near Bungendore.

This Anzac Day and its peace vigils seem momentous to us, but they will pass unnoticed by the platypuses of Tidbinbilla. Let us pray that when and if our warring species wipes itself out that platypuses will be among the wild things to inherit the earth.

Anzac Day and peace vigils are, in the Great Scheme of Things, trifling modern inventions, but scientists think that platypuses, impossibly strange, may have split from echidnas between 19 and 48 million years ago. The oldest discovered fossil of the modern platypus dates back to about 100,000 years ago.

Last Monday John Bundock and  David Rees saw a platypus blithely platypusing in the Tidbinbilla River. John Bundock photographed it (pictured on our page today) and David Rees made an exquisite little film of it. Just as platypuses beautify Tidbinbilla (although in a sense they oddify it as well) that footage will beautify your day. One source of it is in the chat line of the Canberra Ornithologists Group via