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Werri Beach Local a Hero

By Elke Blake

Werri Beach citizen George Gittoes has written a new book which describes him as “equal parts artist and warrior”. In its pages you will read how he worked with Andy Warhol, dined with Fidel Castro, plotted with Julian Assange, was feted by Nelson Mandela, blessed by Mother Teresa and threatened to be beheaded by the Taliban.

The 66-year-old artist spends several months a year unwinding in his Werri Beach home, the rest of the year he’s in war zones.

George tells of the time the Taliban has threatened George’s life a number of times, including cutting his face off because a simple beheading wasn’t enough. But he tells of his worst meetings have been turned around.

In one instance, the “Charles Manson of the Taliban” and his squad turned up one night and whisked him back to their compound to kill him, the situation ended in a feast and an apology.

Many Taliban family members arrived giving “eulogies” about how much they loved Baba George and what good he had done for the country (Baba meaning grandfather, of which he is affectionately known around the city).

“Then the moment came where we had to go outside where the execution box was, and the bad Taliban guy turned to me and said ‘I have to apologise, I had very bad thoughts about you and we had very bad intentions’,” George said.

“He personally decided to take us home and on the way back he turned to me and said ‘this is one of the most inspiring nights of my life’.”

The Middle East is not the only challenging place George has wandered. Somalia, Cambodia, Rwanda, South Africa, Bosnia, Nicaragua and Iraq are also on his passport.

“It’s not a matter of me feeling so much I have a destiny, it’s just, right from the word go I wanted to go out and reach out to people,” he said.

Source: Kiama Independent

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