The Canning Stock Route is many things in one: a path through the desert, a place where many different people came together, a region with a history that crosses cultures. Yet it is also a symbol of the complex interweaving of Indigenous and non-Indigenous histories that lies at the heart of so many Australian stories.
Here we can trace the movements, both human and artistic, that define the changing social landscape of the Western Desert in the 20th century. The stock route becomes a lens through which we see more clearly the extraordinary events that lay behind the emergence of contemporary Indigenous art.
This story appears to be about the past – in truth, it is as much about the present and the future.
Today the area around the stock route is dotted with vibrant Aboriginal art centres, and animated by dynamic art movements. In 2007, artists from these centres came together and travelled the stock route again to tell their story through painting, film and oral history. All these stories, including all of the artworks in this exhibition, are now part of the National Museum of Australia’s collection.
There is no single group of Canning Stock Route people, but the stock route encompasses a history that unites the people and the art of the region. It is one road connecting those people and their stories to a bigger story still being told about Australia today.
Artists’ portraits by Tim Acker, Gabrielle Sullivan, Carly Davenport, Monique La Fontaine, Morika Biljabu and Kevin Kelly.