Artworks / 2014 / Fritz and the rose garden

Fritz and the rose garden 2014 by Sera Waters

Fritz and the rose garden  2014

felt, hand-dyed calico and string, cotton, wool, hand-made stones, trim,

approximately 300 x 200 cm

Photograph Grant Hancock


On the 10th of March 1927 my German Grandfather, though he never knew of me in his lifetime, jumped ship in Port Adelaide. He was an electrical engineer aboard the SS Justin, and after abandoning the idea of making a life in South America, instead decided upon Australia as the land upon which he would begin his life anew. There are photos of him taken around this time upon a wharf and alongside men who are presumably fellow seamen, and it is difficult not to read into his expression a wry acknowledgement that he would not be returning to his ship in port. He avoided the authorities, somewhat unnecessarily as his disappearance was never reported or recorded, and at the advice of a German pastor, ventured into the Riverland - specifically Pinaroo and Loxton to find what was already a burgeoning German population. Here he began to take up small jobs on farms, to eventually build a new life which included a prominent Loxton electrical business, a celebrated Rose garden, a bustling family and a home of which he handmade each and every of the 40,000 cement bricks. He was naturalized Australian in 1933.

It is his rose garden that has been explored within this work; a garden captured in a hand-coloured photograph behind my Grandfather as a young man with a Lassie-like dog. People from all over the district reportedly visited this rose garden on Sundays which was described in the newspaper as a ‘beauty spot’ and which ‘won prizes in statewide competitions conducted by the Sunday Mail’ (Loxton News, Dec 8 1976) . In an Advertiser article (10 April 1934) the writer states that ‘the first prize garden is that owned by …. A single man who hopes to build a home later on. Every bit of his spare time has been put into the garden of the home to be…’. While he never built a family house within this garden it still has many hallmarks of the investment of time into ‘making home’, creating a feeling of ‘home’, and particularly of ways of negotiating a very new and different land to that of Germany.