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'Canning Stock Route Country' by Patrick Tjungurrayi, 2007


'Canning Stock Route Country' by Patrick Tjungurrayi, 2007

Object information


In 1958, as a young man, Patrick Tjungurrayi walked north out of the desert, using the Canning Stock Route as a guide, looking for his family. In 2007, as part of the FORM Canning Stock Route project, Patrick returned to the Canning Stock Route to retrace the journey he had made out of the desert 50 years earlier. Patrick joined the trip at Kunawarritji (Well 33) and travelled from there up to Billiluna and Balgo at the top of the stock route. Along the way he created this painting, which narrates the personal, historical and ancestral stories of his Country.

The painting covers the desert country transected by the canning stock route from well 33 in the south (far left of the painting) to Billiluna in the north (far right). The bottom line of white squares in the painting is the Tingari Tjukurrpa (or Dreaming track) that dominates the artist's Country east of the stock route. The top line of white squares represents the Canning Stock Route waters from Kunawarritji (well 33) north to Billiluna.

"Kunawarritji [well 33], Nyipil [34], Kinyu [35], Pangkapini [between 35 and 36], Kilykily [36], Lipuru [37], Wajaparni [38], Kukapanyu [39], Natawalu [40], Tiru [41], Kulyayi [42], Katajilkarr [43], Jimpirrinykarra [44], Jintijinti [45], Kujuwarri [46], Kartalapuru [47], Kurninarra [near 48], Kaningarra [48], Lampu [49], Jikarn [50], Kilangkilang [between 50 and 51], Kururrungku [Billiluna] That long way that I'm travelling." (Patrick Tjungurrayi)

As a young man, Patrick and his brother, Brandy Tjungurrayi, used to walk about the Tingari country depicted in the bottom left quarter of the canvas, occasionally travelling west to the stock route around well 33. These familial journeys intersected the stock route most famously at Natawalu (well 40) in 1957, when the family encountered the Helicopter conducting a mining survey. (This story is told in detail in the Yiwarra Kuju exhibition and catalogue). After 'Helicopter' Tjungurrayi was flown to Balgo for medical assistance, the family began moving north in groups along the stock route. Patrick was on ceremonial Law business at this time, and consequently could not travel with the other women and children in the group; so he had to wait behind and walk up by himself out of the desert. He used the wells of the Canning Stock Route to guide him up to Balgo. So in some sense it is the artist's journey embodied in the upper white line of squares in the painting.

It is more than a personal history, however. Patrick also accompanied his work with a series of oral histories recorded during the process of painting. He narrated the unwritten history of those sites along the stock route between wells 33 to 51. At Lipuru, well 37, he noted the murder of a white man by members of his own family; an event corroborated by official documentation as the murder of McLernon on the Locke Oil expedition. At Tiru, well 41, he has painted the site where white men massacred a desert family.

"Bones are still there where they killed people. I bin see those bones. (Peter) Kurtiji was a little kid, he was crying. His mother was dead there. I will show you." (Patrick Tjungurrayi)

Peter Kurtiji (Goodijie) was a Mangkaja artist (not represented in the CSR collection) whose family was killed by white men around well 41 as payback for having killed the white mens' camel. Patrick also recalls other killings at Jinti Jinti and Jikarn (wells 45 and 50), where the Aboriginal people for that Country fell victim in various ways to the stock route and the conflicted history that coursed along its path.

"This is their country. And they all died, whole lot. They got matches and chained them, made them sit down and put them in the fire. They fired the people, you know. Jikarn people. Those (white) people were bad. They killed the people from this country. There's nobody left from Jikarn." (Patrick Tjungurrayi, Jikarn, 2007)

These historical events are catalogued in Patrick's painting, coexisting with the personal and ancestral narratives layered in the Country itself.

Physical description

A pink toned horizontally striped textured painting on canvas with rows of geometric patterns of concentric squares, stripes, crenellated line and pattern blocks. The rows are slightly diagonal moving from the lower left corner to the upper right section. At the top there are lighter colours of white, orange, pale pink and yellow with squares, crenellated lines and stripes. Then there is a blue and maroon crenellated line. Below this the central section has orange, yellow, dark pink and a bit of white in brick pattern, squares, crenellation and stripes. The bottom section contains a row of alternate blue and pink rectangles then crenellation and stripes in pink, dark pink, orange brown, yellow and a little white. The bottom edge has the measurement '183 x 122cm' while the top edge has the code 'PO/112/DT'. In the bottom right corner is an arrow in blue marker.

Statement of significance

The Canning Stock Route collection is comprised of 125 works and includes paintings, drawings, baskets, boomerangs, coolamons, headdresses, carved figures and shields.

The Canning Stock Route is a no-longer-used cattle droving route that traverses the Great Sandy and Gibson Deserts of central Western Australia. Comprised of 48 wells along an 1800 kilometres stretch of track, the route links Wiluna in the south with Sturt Creek in the north and traverses the traditional lands of nine Aboriginal language groups. The route was founded in 1905 when Alfred Canning was commissioned to investigate a route suitable for the droving of 500 head of cattle, with water sources spaced at intervals of no more than one day's walk apart. Although Canning's map records observations of the land and water resources, it makes no mention of Indigenous places and their associated meanings which the route traversed. This collection, composed of 'painting stories', sculptural works and oral histories, re-dresses Canning's omission and records the impact of the stock route on Indigenous lives and country. A six week journey with traditional owners held in July and August of 2007 inspired the artworks, many of which were produced during the journey, and provided an opportunity for more than 70 senior and emerging artists to reconnect with traditional lands..

Object information

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