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'Kunawarritji to Wajaparni' collaborative work, 2008


'Kunawarritji to Wajaparni' collaborative work, 2008

Object information


The painting was completed over two days at the Canning Stock Route project painting camp at Kilykily (well 36), in August 2007.This work was painted by eight men (Patrick Tjungurrayi, Jeffrey James, Helicopter Tjungurrayi, Charlie Wallabi, Clifford Brooks, Richard Yukenbarri, Peter Tinker and Putuparri Tom Lawford), representing five different desert art centres. Working under the guidance of the senior men, Jeffrey James and Patrick Tjungurrayi, the artists agreed which tract of country they could collectively paint, and then each artist painted that part of Country with which he has close family ties. Putuparri Tom Lawford was enlisted by the senior men to paint the waters: Kunawarritji (well 33), Nyirpil (well 34), Kinyu (well 35), Pangkapirni (between wells 35 & 36), Kirl Kirl (well 36), Lipuru (well 37), Wajaparni (well 38). The painting makes no reference to the line of the stock route at all. Rather the artists took a cross-section of the Country intersected by wells 33-38 and used it to explain the vast relational logic of their social world.

"All this waters from that line to this line are all our family trees where our mob used to go from one waterhole to another, all as one people. This is our family tree this painting ... Yeah, some mob came from here, some from there; all met up along these wells, jilas, before wells. People from the north, south, east and west all came together." [Jeffrey James, well 36, 2007]

"This was where our people got together as one, along these wells. Our grandfathers too. They was all as one people, don't matter [that they they're from] different tribes. They came here, stay for a while, and then go back home." [Patrick Tjungurrayi, well 36, 2007].

This painting illuminates the nature of family relationships, which are grounded in Country. Crisscrossing this region and the painting are multiple Dreaming tracks that include important stories which, under Aboriginal law, are restricted to initiated men. The painting is made up almost entirely of different shades of white, but the variations in dotting technique reveal the hands of separate artists and the distinctive styles of different art centres. These artists meet around the wells in this painting, as their ancestors once did, to share a common story for that Country. It is revealing that such a small part of the stock route Country should have been painted by men from five art centres spread across the Western Desert.

[Content description adapted from J. Carty, Drawing a Line in the Sand: the Canning Stock Route and Contemporary art, in Yiwarra Kuju catalogue (NMA) 2010]

Physical description

An acrylic circle and line painting on linen, featuring seven blue circles painted along the artwork at equidistant points. The rest of the painting illustrates clusters of orange, brown, tan and white lines.

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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