Friday, June 13, 2008

Action Figures

The Travellers Come From Many Lands

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON


With the brilliant blue skies we had on Wednesday, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to give you a Sky Watch Friday post that takes you to the heart of Melbourne, both visually and culturally. As you can see by the photograph above, the quality of light was so strong that the shadows were almost summer-like in their clarity and definition.

These striking metal figures - called The Travellers and designed by Nadim Karam and Atelier Hapsitus - are several metres high and they are a terrific barometer of Melbourne's fickle weather. In cloudy or overcast conditions, the figures look gun-metal grey, but in sunny weather, they cast a unique silvery gleam. So on Wednesday, as the clouds began to clear at lunchtime, The Travellers were at their shiny metallic best.

They stand on the old Sandridge Bridge and they tell a tale of many lands, many races, many bold ventures by migrants who left their native shores and journeyed to this sunburnt country. As a migrant myself, I find they are a wonderful expression of pride, reflecting this city's multi-cultural heritage.

The Sandridge Bridge was built in 1888, the first metal bridge across the Yarra River. It was a rail bridge and it ran diagonally across the river, forming an important link between Port Melbourne and the new city that was part of John Batman’s great vision.

When the bridge was decommissioned in 1987, a year before I came to live in Melbourne, it fell into disrepair. Several points of view were aired on what should be done with the bridge and in 2006, just before the opening of the Commonwealth Games here in Melbourne, the refurbished bridge was unveiled.

The bridge is now a walkway and there are 128 glass panels on either side that commemorate each nation from which people migrated to Melbourne. The individual glass panels can be seen in the photo above and each has the name of a country emblazoned on it. But the piece de resistance, without doubt, is the nine giant steel sculptures named The Travellers. Three times each day, the huge figures slide soundlessly back and forward across the bridge.

Shortly after they were unveiled, I walked across the bridge to stand under their shadow while each traversed the huge span of the bridge. There is nothing more than a muted whirring as each figure slides seamlessly into place and the others follow in a parade of quiet majesty.

Each figure represents the different waves of settlers, from the early convicts to the Gold Rush-era prospectors, as well as the refugees and the modern professionals.


And what, you might well ask, of this land's most ancient inhabitants? There is a tenth figure (above) built on a giant plinth, that is stationary on the south bank of the river. It represents Victoria's Aboriginal communities, for whom this spot by the life-sustaining river was a traditional meeting place.

Migrants no longer cross this historic bridge. Migrants no longer make a many-layered journey across this historic stretch of water. But The Travellers, who traverse it instead, remind us all - every one of us - how boldly we strode from the lands of our birth to come here.


For other participants in Dot’s concept, go to Sky Watch Friday.

52 comments:

willow said...

Amazing.

katydidnot said...

those are fantastic.

Abraham Lincoln said...

I like the sky and the surroundings. Makes a nice post for SWF.

SandyCarlson said...

You live in a beautiful city, David. The sculptures create an interesting optical illusion.

RuneE said...

Moving pictures and even more moving text. The monument to the Aboriginals was especially appropriate.

bobbie said...

Thank you for this post. Beautiful pictures, and very beautiful text.

Michele (Rocky Mtn.Girl) said...

It's a beautiful post and as I was looking at the sculptures, I kept moving up to the buildings in the background. Those are awesome! Living here in the mountains, I just don't see that so to me that is almost beautiful! LOL.
Mountain Retreat

Bart said...

Oh neat.

imbeingheldhostage said...

Those are so cool!

Old Wom Tigley said...

Cheers David.. another great post.. loved the pictures and I promise I'll be back soon to read up more about them..

Thank you for joining in with Sky Watch this week and helping to make it special.

Petunia said...

Awsome figurs and a great SWF post!
Petunia's SWF

Brenda said...

That is definitely on my list of things I want to see before I die. Thank for you for the terrific post. And the first picture was awesome for Sky Watch Friday.

Dina said...

What a project--good onya Melbourne! My country, another land of immigrants, could learn from you how to honor us immigrants to Israel.

Your writing here brings me tears.
I held my Aussie grandbaby as his parents went up on stage to receive their Australian citizenship. A fine country.

imac said...

Just love those shadows and collection of metal visitors.


visit my colours of Nature.

lime said...

oh thanks so much for the pictures and the story to go with them. what a marvelous way to have commemorated a historic piece of architecture and the immigrant history of australia. just wonderful!

Lee said...

Those are really neat figures, David. What a wonderful way to celebrate the diverseness of Australia. And I did like that long view down the bridge. Looked like you were going to take us straight down the line of sight into downtown. :)

Cheers!

Lana Gramlich said...

Thanks for the info on the Travelers (& for the lovely photos!) How wonderfully intriguing!

Cowgirl said...

Better and better,David. Loved the insight into these figures and what makes Melbourne tick. It's a fine city you live in, indeed. Thanks for sharing it with us.

BeachysCapeCodCupboard said...

Beautiful photos; such amazing statuary! The history lesson is an added bonus. I love the fact that so many cultures and nations are represented. (One interesting tidbit... as youngsters in school we were taught that the English sent its convicts to Australia in the late 18th/early 19th centuries. While true, what I didn't know was that the convicts were originally often sent to the U.S.,... that is, until the Revolutionary War! (And I had to learn that on my own from reading the book "1776" as an adult!)

Pretty Life Online said...

great one for SWF! When we realize how perfect everything is we will tilt our head back and laugh at the sky... mine's up too hope you can drop by.

Lori said...

How neat. Those sculptures are quite unique. I like the glass panels with the country's names. It must be something to see at night.

John said...

Amazing shots and a great swf post, David!
Wonderful sculptures, too.

Me & my puppies said...

The Travellers look like they are celebrating their arrival in this great county. Partying on! Fun photos.

mrsnesbitt said...

A well documented well thought out picture D.

Spot on!

MamaGeek said...

Wow, now THAT is nothing short of EYE candy.

And FYI, not sure when you leave or if you are already auto-posting, but PhotoStory Friday is up.

Kathryn said...

That top shot is just amazing! One of my favs for sure!

Sandpiper said...

Beautiful pictures and an interesting post, as always, David! Great for SWF!

Louis la Vache said...

Outstanding post and very interesting history. "Louis" enjoyed this very much!

"Louis", an early riser, caught San Francisco waking up.

Carletta said...

Such an interesting post.
I love that yellow in the first photo - blue and yellow are always my favorite.
The metal figures are amazing - so glad you shared those.

Pat - An Arkansas Stamper said...

David, I very much enjoyed your beautifully written and photographically illustrated essay. I know much less than I ought about Australia's history, but what little I do know I find fascinating. Thank you for this brief look into a piece of that history. Kudos to the municipal officials and/or others who brought this stunning automated historical art to all who would see it.

alicesg said...

Very beautiful SWF photo. The sculptures are all very beautiful and creative. Have a nice weekend.

Champ Townboy said...

Fantastic!

esnorway said...

keep up the good work nice shots

Dave Coulter said...

Those sculptures are amazing...well done!

fishing guy said...

David: Very beautiful Skies with your sculptures.

quilly said...

Informational and touching post -- very well done. One could almost believe you are a writer. Almost, because of the poem that proceeds it ....

Katney said...

A fascinating tour.
Thank you.

Jennifer H said...

Amazing. I had never heard of these.

Island Rambles Blog said...

Happy Sky Watch for Friday......lovely colors in your BLUE skies....we have rain and more rain.....come and see my bride in the sky..if you already visited then thanks...cheers!!

archiearchive said...

Great photos (as usual) and a fascinating tale to go with them.

Ida said...

Thank you for the tour.
You were a good guide.
Beautiful and interesting.
Great shots.
Clear colours, great shadows and reflections.
Very nice sculptures and effects.

Maggie May said...

That was great! You must be proud of the country you have come to love! It came out in your writing!

Gary said...

Fantastic pictures and a wonderful lesson. Those statues are quite striking.

Gary

Anne-Berit said...

Wonderful post!

evlahos said...

very beautiful photos. wonderful colors. and also very interesting artwork.

Your EG Tour Guide said...

Thanks for the bit of Melbourne history. I tend to think of Australia as being a very young country but, come to think of it, Australia is probably older than Canada.

Daryl said...

Love these .. its like being there


:-Daryl

Sandy Kessler said...

a city of much pulchritude!! sk

Dottie said...

Never disappointed by your photos!

Raven said...

What wonderful sculptures! I love them!

CrazyCath said...

That is a magnificent post. The first photo caught my eye with the bright yellow in sharp contrast against the grey of the ground and the blue of the sky. Fantastic shots and a great write up too. I had never heard of the Travellers and I think it is a wonderful, uniting idea.

How fitting too that the 10th sculpture is permanent, stationary. As are the people - permanent, always having been there. What a tribute to all the people of Melbourne.

fishing guy said...

David: That was a neat post. It must have been before I saw SWF and also your site. Thanks for linking back.