Semakh Diorama

This diorama depicts the events of 25 September 1918, when the 11th Light Horse Regiment – a regiment of South Australians and Queenslanders with a noticeable number of Aboriginal troopers - attacked the village of Semakh in Palestine. The diorama was created from the official histories and photographs supplied to the artists. It was originally exhibited in Melbourne in 1927–28, and was first displayed at the Memorial in Aeroplane Hall, where it remained until 1971. The original background was originally painted on linoleum that had been adhered to Masonite, and over the years it had become very brittle; when moved it was irretrievably torn. The current background was painted by Alexander McKenzie in 2013.


McKenzie travelled to the site of Semakh in September 2013 to get a sense of the scale of the landscape and the atmosphere. He went to the site at dawn to see the play of light and dark over the water and surrounding hills.

Here McKenzie has incorporated historical elements into the background, including the town of Semakh, which no longer exists, and the current landscape to connect the past with the present. He has included the portion of the official history that tells of the enemy attempting to escape by motor boat before being “caught by machine-gun and Hotchkiss fire, and burst into flames”. The sinking boat can be seen ablaze at the edge of the diorama’s shoreline.

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