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From the communities

From the communities

Listening to the old people's story from the past. Good ones, sad ones. Now it's up to us to tell them to our future generations.

Putuparri Tom Lawford, Fitzroy Crossing, 2007

Country around Well 28.
Country around Well 28. Photo: Tim Acker, 2007.

When kartiya (non-Aboriginal people) come along to this exhibition, and read this book, we hope they learn the history of the Canning Stock Route from the paintings and stories of Aboriginal people, what the history is really about. People will find out about how Canning been working, and how people are still connected to the land and still pass down the story.

It used to be blackfella Country before they built the wells. Today it's a kartiya highway. Before it used to be Aboriginal people's land, our Jukurrpa (Dreaming), waterholes, jumu (soakwaters) and jila (springs). Blackfellas used to walk around — foot-walk — not with a camel. When they saw camels and horses they'd get frightened and run away. Martu people got shot in that Country, and at Kulyayi (Well 42) Wangkajunga people got killed.

Canning made a mess of the wells and Dreaming tracks and sacred sites and law sites. He used blackfellas to get where he wanted to go, to make his mark. So it's about kartiya coming and making that line of wells.

But in another way, all those wells opened up our Country for people to travel back to Country with their kids. Because if you didn't do that the Country would be lost. Now it's easier to get to Country. We've got our own story there, two ways.

We're all family. All the stories are about how all the families got scattered across the Western Desert. And at the nine art centres, we're all related. From Wiluna and Kiwirrkurra and Balgo, Mulan, and Martu Country. From Nyarna (Lake Stretch) right down to Wiluna. Our ancestors walked that land. The Canning Stock Route forced all the people to all different places.

But people still talk about their Country and call the names, and we talk about how all the art centres are going to tell their stories. Everybody has that same story.

Some stories can be told, some stories can't be told, from the Dreamtime. There are too many stories. All these stories, all told by our old people.

Ngarralja Tommy May
Mangkaja artist and senior cultural adviser

Putuparri Tom Lawford
Senior translator and cultural adviser

Murungkurr Terry Murray
Co-curator. Fitzroy Crossing, March, 2010