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'Natawalu' by Helicopter Tjungurrayi, 2007


'Natawalu' by Helicopter Tjungurrayi, 2007

Object information


"What's this two place? Natawalu! Natawalu and Ngankangarra tjurnu (soak water). The helicopter came here to Natawalu and Nganka, we were staying there, getting mangarri (food) and hunting. That helicopter took me right up to Kaningarra tjurnu (near CSR well 48). I saw a little tractor and I thought it was a porcupine, then the helicopter took me to Balgo mission." [Helicopter Tjungurrayi, Lake Stretch, 2007]

In 1957 a mining survey party came across a group of people living near Natawalu (Well 40). Some of these people had never seen white men before. None had seen a helicopter. Ten-year-old Tjungurrayi (the artist, later to become known as 'Helicopter') was seriously ill, so the survey team flew him and his mother's sister, who was also ill, north to Balgo for medical attention. Helicopter created this painting to tell the story of his dramatic departure from the desert. The larger circle is Natawalu (Well 40) and the smaller one is Ngankangarra, a nearby water source, where his family had been camped. "I was walking around long time, but I got sick that's when that helicopter got me He came [in a helicopter] and put it down at my father's camp. He spoke to me not in Kukatja, but in English. I was sitting there puzzled. I spoke to him in Kukatja, 'Take me to Balgo to the medicine'. They put me on the helicopter right there, me and my mother. They took us to the old [Balgo] mission. It was the first time they saw a helicopter too; even me, first time they seen me too. They were asking who my parents were. I told them then they knew me through my parents. Then I went to Derby [hospital]. After I got better they took me back to Balgo and I'm still here today." [Helicopter Tjungurrayi)

Physical description

A painting on brown linen with orange, red and white vertical stripes with a darker central section. In the centre there are two white and orange circles. Along the bottom is the text 'HELICOPTER\120\WARLIYIRTI'. A number 107 has been crossed out. On the right edge is the measurement '80 x 51.51'. The stamp on the back of the canvas reads 'Cat # 120 / form. / The / Canning / Stock / Route / Project'.

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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