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Listening to Country

Listening to Country

Listening to Country: The inseparable links between family and Dreaming on the 'Canning Stock Road' (part one)

We got one road ... All the people from that Canning Stock Road, they got one mind and one heart, one wangka [story].

Putuparri Tom Lawford, Palm Spring, 2009

Wangkajunga girl painted up to dance at Ngumpan community.
Wangkajunga girl painted up to dance at Ngumpan community.
Photo: Tim Acker, 2008.

The mainstream history of the Canning Stock Route has revolved around the story of white explorers, drovers, prospectors and policemen whose accounts were committed to paper. It is an epic story of heroic feats by white men against staggering odds, but it is a story impoverished by the absence of Aboriginal voices.

The Canning Stock Route collection brings to the fore these untold stories of a road that changed the shape of people's lives. The values intrinsic to desert cultures are revealed in the processes by which these stories were told, recorded and approved for use in this new collection. These are accounts that imbue Alfred Canning's legacy with a meaning and complexity hitherto unrecognised.

The Canning Stock Route did transform the social and cultural landscape of the desert forever, and it interrupted patterns of movement and connection, which had defined Aboriginal people's relationship to Country for millennia, but it did not extinguish these ties. The works in the Canning Stock Route collection reflect the richness of these connections to Country and to the forces, both tangible and intangible, of the Jukurrpa.

I been listening to all them Countries when I was a kid with my old man. He tell me, 'One day when you want to see me, you'll go to all them places there, and you have a look, and you can tell the story. If they can't listen to you by the story, you'll do the art. By painting you can do that.'

Clifford Brooks, Wiluna, 2007