Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Sacrifice


Anzac Day today, a day of commemoration. Inside the Anzac War Memorial in Hyde Park (built in 1934) is this amazing sculpture called "The Sacrifice". It depicts the recumbent figure of a young warrior who has made the supreme sacrifice; his naked body lies upon a shield which is supported by three women(not visible here) - his best loved Mother, Wife and Sister and in the arms of one is a child, the future generations for whom the sacrifice has been made.

The group rises from symbolic flames of sacrifice, which radiate from its base. Placed centrally in the ‘Hall of Silence’ (lower level), this piece is only visible from the ‘Hall of Memory’ (top circular gallery), so that all who gaze upon the group must bow their heads in acknowledgement of the self-sacrifice engendered by war. Full details about this piece here.

To tell you the truth, I'm not very comfortable with this representation: the naked soldier, arms outstretched on a sword, evidently resembles a Christ on the cross. Is there a parallel to be drawn between a man who gives his life to save his country and the one who gave his to save all men? I'm afraid it doesn't work for me. Associating war and religion is dangerous, as has been seen many times in history. Unfortunately it's a string that is still pulled today...

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Anzac Day aujourd'hui, journée du souvenir. A l'intérieur de l'Anzac War Memorial de Hyde Park (construit en 1934) se trouve cette étonnante sculpture, "Le Sacrifice" représentant un jeune soldat nu émergeant des flammes du sacrifice, faisant barrage de son corps pour protéger son pays et en payant le prix de sa vie. Lire toute la symbolique ici, très intéressante (en anglais).

Pour tout dire je ne me sens pas à l'aise avec cette représentation : le soldat nu, bras étendus sur une épée, ressemble furieusement à un Christ en croix. Peut-on faire un parallèle entre un homme qui donne sa vie pour son pays et celui qui a donné la sienne pour tous les hommes ? Ca ne fonctionne pas pour moi. Associer guerre et religion a déjà eu dans l'histoire les effets désastreux que l'on sait. Malheureusement, c'est une ficelle qui est encore souvent tirée aujourd'hui.

16 comments:

RamblingRound said...

It does make a beautiful golden photograph though.

Kate said...

Yes, it is unusual. I'm always uncomfortable with crucifixion scenes. Your narrative is very informative.

Meg in Nelson said...

Lovely shots.

Sally said...

Just as i was reading your blog, I had to rush to the kitchen from where I heard yelling and screaming. Piero was screaming at the TV - he had the Anzac Dawn service from Gallipoli on, and had just listened to Ataturk's inspring words of reconciliation (1934)- your sons are now our sones, so don;t weep etc....and then someone came on singing "Ode to Joy" but the words jhad been changed to some contemporary saccharine "Oh God" stuff - not only ruining Beethoven but doing the religion-commemoration thing overtly. It also makes me VERY uncomfortable.

I often wonder just how God chooses sides in a war? When everyone apparently fights in his name? is God a Christian, and if so, Orthodiox, Catholic or Protestant, or is God (Allah) actually protecting Sunnis, or perhaps Shi'ites, right now?

Imparfait présent said...

Ta réflexion du jour me rappelle cette chanson :

Le sabre et le goupillon
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Comme cul et chemise comme larrons en foire
J'ai vu se constituer tant d'associations
Mais il n'en reste qu'une au travers de l'histoire
Qui ait su nous donner toute satisfaction

Le sabre et le goupillon

L'un brandissant le glaive et l'autre le ciboire
Les peuples n'avaient plus à s'poser de questions
Et quand ils s'en posaient c'était déjà trop tard
On se sert aussi bien pour tondre le mouton

Du sabre et du goupillon

Quand un abbé de cour poussait une bergère
Vers des chemins tremblants d'ardente déraison
La belle ne savait pas quand elle se laissait faire
Qu'ils condamnaient l'usage de la contraception

Le sabre et le goupillon

Et maintes éminences et maints beaux capitaines
Reposaient le guerrier de la même façon
Dans le salon chinois où Madame Germaine
Grâce à ses pensionnaires réalisait l'union

Du sabre et du goupillon

C'était le temps rêvé de tous les militaires
On leur offrait des guerres et des expéditions
Que de manants joyeux sont partis chez Saint-Pierre
Le coeur plein de mitraille et de bénédictions

Du sabre et du goupillon

Quand ils s'en revenaient et d'Asie et d'Afrique
Ils faisaient régner l'ordre au sein de la nation
Les uns possédaient l'art d'utiliser la trique
Les autres sans le dire pensaient qu'elle a du bon

Le sabre et le goupillon

On n'sait plus aujourd'hui à qui faire la guerre
Ça brise le moral de la génération
C'est pourquoi les crédits que la paix nous libère
Il est juste qu'il aillent comme consolation

Au sabre et au goupillon

L'un jouant du clairon l'autre de l'harmonium
Ils instruiront ainsi selon la tradition
Des cracks en Sambre et Meuse des forts en Te Deum
Qui nous donneront encore bien des satisfactions

Du sabre et du goupillon


(Paroles et musique : Jean Ferrat)

Ancient One said...

Others may, Nathalie, but I've never felt a'crucifixion' connection with the site. Australia was less religious than most nations at that time. One piece of symbolism most overlook, by the way, is outside. There's a contemporary female figure represented there which, as far as I've been able to ascertain, may have been the first time a non mythological female was honoured in the figures placed on a major national war memmorial.

One of my grandfathers, who I'm told was very strong on one only of the trilogy, "God, King and Country", felt his family [with three sons] should play its role strongly. With the 28 and 26 year olds, one joined the Infantry, and one served on HMAS Sydney. It was decided the youngest son should remain behind, so Joe, my grandfather, made up for it by lying about his age and going off with the Light Horse to Egypt. He was an expert horseman and fit; but at 55 years of age? It was a different world.

But being French as you are, Nathalie, there's a chance you possibly know more about Australians' role on the Western Front in W.W.I than do many young Australians, all too often encouraged by our current school and university systems to disparage volunteers of earlier days.

Cergie said...

Quelle belle illustration pour un beau message, ces tons sur tons dorés et bronzes, ce cadrage curieux tête en bas jusqu'à ce qu'on comprenne que tu as voulu l'ombre pour souligner le relief de la vasque... et puis au pays de la tête en bas c'est pas mal...

Cergie said...

Le message, tu as tout à fait raison / les guerres de religion...

Il y a aussi selon moi la religion consolation...
Depuis néanderthal, l'humanité a conscience de l'irrémédiable perte de la mort.
Les cimetières sont peuplés de ces jeunes gens de 20 ans ou moins qui n'ont jamais connu la vie d'homme, tenu une femme dans leur bras...

20 ans, sortir de l'insouciance de l'enfance, quitter l'amour d'une mère et se retrouver dans un coin de cimetière parmi les morts glorieux à la patrie reconnaissante...

richard said...

I have to agree with you Nathalie (and Sally and others) - it looks a little sentimentalised to me for such a subject. However as has been said, the photograph is well done. I wonder if global attitudes are changing to war. I've heard people say that our generation never experienced war first hand and we talk about it from the comfort and distance of our armchairs. I'm not so sure - especially if we are from one of the unfortunate families whose children and loved ones have perished as a result of these "distant" wars in places like Vietnam and Iraq, whose purpose is a lot less clear than the global conflicts of WWI an WWII. Will they be given glorifying memorials like this one?

Peter said...

Magnificient photo and comments!

Olivier said...

c'est vrai que si l'on regarde bien, on a l'impression de voir le christ. malheureusement guerre et religion ;o((.
il n'empeche que ta prise de vue est superbes, et ta photo tres belle.

Thiên said...

Unusual yet beautiful too. It's a very poignant figure. You captured it quite well, Nathalie. Also, I'm enjoying the discussion here. Sally's words about how might God choose a side in war really touch on something in me. It's a good way to start the day, thinking about things that sometimes seem so far away and yet they aren't.

ruth said...

Interesting post, and I appreciate your comments.

Maxime said...

Le seul monument au sacrifice que je supporte est le monument aux morts de Gentioux, une petite commune de Creuse; une simple stelle, avec 58 noms de jeunes du village sacrifiés sur les fronts de 1914, et la statue d'un enfant qui tend le poing vers cette inscription au bas de la liste :"Maudite soit la guerre".

Sally said...

It is almost like a Pieta. (Christ's mother cradling dead Christ)

On a more non-religious plane I believe it represents the return of the body to the homeland, which is represented by the women - mothers, daughters, wives. At that time, and indeed until recently, Australian bodies were never repatriated - and certianly in WW1 there was no chance of that - time and distance would have meant it was impossible. Hence the beautifully tended and cared for Commonwealth War Graves wherever there were fallen - northern France and Belgium have hundreds of such cemeteries, lovingly and beautifully tended and maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

So, the symbolism of this may be derived from a religious motif, but is also meant to be the symbolic return of all the fallen to their homeland.

This info is courtesy of a program I saw on ABC TV a couple of nights ago.

Nathalie said...

On Sally's first intervention I'll add this bumper sticker recently found in the USA: "which God do you kill for?"

Thanks also to Sally for her very interesting addition regarding the symbolism of this piece.

Thanks to all for your comments, often thoughtful and heart felt.