Sacred Aboriginal Artefact In Sale At The Canterbury Auction Galleries On Wednesday September 7, UK auctioneers The Canterbury Auction Galleries will sell an ancient stone Churinga, a sacred object of mystical significance to the Aborigine nation. Estimate £4,0000-6,000
News-Antique.com - Aug 31,2011 - Ancient carved stone once belonged to Archer Russell
explorer and writer, now a ‘forgotten son of Australia’
To the uninitiated, it looks like a large, flat pebble with a few scratchings on it. To naturalist, writer, traveller and social historian Archer Russell, it epitomised a lifetime spent wandering on walkabouts lasting several months. To the Arunta people of Central Desert Australia, it is an Aboriginal Churinga, a sacred object of mystical significance.
To the Kent lady in whose ownership the stone has been for the last 50 years, it is a memorial to a man she knew only briefly but who instilled in her a love of the continent and an appreciation of its vast beauty. With the sale of the Churinga at The Canterbury Auction Galleries on September 6-7, she hopes it will serve to reawaken public awareness of a “lost son of Australia”, both here and abroad.
George Ernest Archer Russell (1881-1960) was a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Society, a prolific writer – he penned hundreds of newspaper columns and seven books including a biography of the British-born Australian agriculturalist William Farrer – and was believed to be a literary editor of the Sydney Morning Herald. Yet he is virtually unknown in the country he loved.
The vendor met Archer when her husband was posted to Australia in 1959. “We moved into a property in Darling Point Road in Sydney and he lived in the apartment upstairs with his second wife, Essie,” she said. “I became very fond of them both, and some years later I chose Essie to be Godmother to our first son.
“I knew Archer to be an explorer, starting up the first white trading post in the Congo, but I believe without much success as on a hunt to get crocodile skins, he found on his return that his Belgium partner had upped sticks and disappeared with the stock and profit. Another venture was growing vines on the banks of the Murray – he always thought Australia could be a threat to the French wine industry – but he didn’t stay at it long enough to prove the point.”
She said she recalled going to the Lido cinema in Golders Green as a child and seeing a film about Australia Aborigines with “the glorious figure of Bob Tudawali striding across the screen”. Ironically, as an actress, she was to appear with him on Australian television.
“When Archer realised I was acting in a show for Australian TV with Bob, we became instant friends,” she said. “Archer was the most gentle and courteous of men. That birthday he gave me the Churinga and the following year, a well-used boomerang. I called the Churinga my dreaming stone. As I can’t divide it between my two sons, I have decided to sell it. Archer was a kind, loving man and I know he would approve. I also hope that the sale will bring his name to the fore again because he is one of Australia’s forgotten