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The art of Country: Stories still being told

The art of Country: Stories still being told

We all go together like one big family, from one area. Even though we come from different language groups, we're all one. And from that 'one' is that one history of all the whole road.

Putuparri Tom Lawford, Palm Spring, 2009

Martumili artist Nora Wompi and grandson at Kunawarritji (Well 33).
Martumili artist Nora Wompi and grandson at Kunawarritji (Well 33).
Photo: Morika Biljabu, 2008.

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 twentieth 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 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. These artistic communities are linked by the vast and intricate family relations that form the social fabric of the desert.

While there is no category of Canning Stock Route art, and no single group of Canning Stock Route people, the stock route encompasses a history that unites the people and the art of the region. It is yiwarra kuju - one road - connecting those people, and their stories, to a bigger story still being told about Australia today.