Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Icons Project #3 The Buddha and the River

I call him a Buddha though he is not of the conventional sort. He's a muscular, almost animalistic man, lotus-legged and clothed only in a Sumo-style thong. He crouches, his face covered by the palms of his hands and the exaggerated muscles of his shoulders are pure, tactile strokability.

"An Icon for you," said Kyabla. I held the wooden Buddha on my lap. It was the same character as the one I'd deposited in a cave recently but three times the size. "I found him in the Dread's shed. It was one of the last things we got out of the place before the State took it. I took him home but he is a strange character. He doesn't really feel very comfortable to me. In the end, I didn't want to keep him in my house."
"I like him," I said. "I've always liked him."

Kyabla and I have mutual friends who have just been gaoled for cultivation and dealing of weed. Before they were separated by the big house for men and women, they also had their land and shack seized by the state. Growing over a certain amount of plants means an automatic dealing charge, which in turn means an automatic seizure of the 'assets of their crime'. In Western Australia there is no secondary court process to decide whether the seizure of land is justifiable. Even though they could prove that their farm was bought by legitimate means, it was taken anyway. Like the card game Grass, paranoia served to enforce the divide and conquer paradigm where fellow stoners felt too vulnerable to protest this situation, or even lend their names to personal references in court.

Kyabla is right in his feelings about the Buddha. It's very posture speaks of injustice, grief and loss. Yet what I see in this character is a kind of beauty and humanity. I held him on my lap, rubbed his spine and thought, this Icon needs to go to Cocanarup.

I don't want to equate the tribulations of a Rastafarian couple to what happened at Cocanarup. Nobody can compare those two experiences.

One day though, the Buddha will be swept away by the river and the river, as is her wont, will roll him over and over like ancient stones, like contested bones and conflicted histories, to the sea.


  1. Lovely. Where is Cocanarup and what happened there? Did I miss another post?

  2. Ohh, perhaps another patch up postscript is required. Cocanarup is the place quite close to my shack, on the Phillips river, where the Dunns and other farmers carried out a massacre of the locals in the 1880s, over the spearing execution of John Dunn. His grave is just near where I put the Buddha. But not too near. :~)