Arson suspected in ghost gum tree burning

Jan. 4, 2013 at 8:55 AM
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ALICE SPRINGS, Australia, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Arson is suspected in a fire that destroyed two ghost gum trees that inspired Australian artist Albert Namatjira decades ago, officials said.

The trees, about 12 miles from Alice Springs in Australia's Northern Territory, were reduced to ashes, The Australian reported Friday.

A spokeswoman from the Territory's Department of Lands, Planning and the Environment said a department employee found the destruction Thursday during a routine check. Police said the trees were burned down several days earlier.

Northern Territory Indigenous Advancement Minister Alison Anderson said the trees were a "special place" for residents, art lovers, historians and tourists, The Australian said.

"The ghost gums featured in many of his [Namatjira's] works and were easily accessible on the road to Hermannsburg, where he was born in 1902," Anderson said. "The twin ghost gums were a wonderful reminder of his connection to the land and many who visited the site would have felt a connection to this great Territorian."

Namatjira painted for nearly 20 years after his first exhibition in 1938. He died in 1959.

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