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9 June 2016

National Museum exhibition

Iconic Indigenous paintings from the National Museum of Australia’s Canning Stock Route collection go on display in Japan today, at the start of a major international tour of a jewel in the crown of the institution’s National Historical Collection.

One Road: Aboriginal Art from Australia's Deserts opens at the National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka today for a six-week exhibition, before moving to Kagawa Prefecture Museum, Kawaga, followed by Ichihara Lakeside Museum, Chiba, Tokyo and finally Kushiro City Museum of Art, Hokkaido.

One Road features thirty-four paintings drawn from the Canning Stock Route collection and includes works by Australia’s most renowned Aboriginal artists. These include Rover Thomas, Patrick Tjungurrayi, Eubena Nampitjin, Jan Billycan, Jackie Giles and Helicopter Tjungurrayi.

The exhibition explores the history of the famous West Australian droving road (the Canning Stock Route) through the stories of the country it cuts across. Drawing on the works of desert artists and the stories of traditional custodians, the exhibition tells the story of the Canning Stock Route's impact on Aboriginal people, and the importance of the country surrounding it.

The One Road paintings were inspired by a six-week return-to-country trip in 2007.

The exhibition reflects ongoing Japanese interest in Indigenous art after the National Museum’s successful Utopia: The Genius of Emily Kame Kngwarreye exhibition toured Japan in 2008.

National Museum Director Dr Mathew Trinca said he was excited that Japanese audiences will have the opportunity to see such unique works.

‘The original Canning Stock Route exhibition toured Australia from 2010–13 to record numbers and we are delighted to be able to take this stunning and important show to a global audience,’ said Dr Trinca.

‘One Road will make an important contribution to international understanding of Australia’s complex history and the intersection of Indigenous and non-Indigenous experience,’ said Dr Trinca.

The National Museum received grant funding of $289,000 from the Australian Government’s Catalyst — Australian Arts and Culture Fund to support the One Road exhibition and to tour Japan in 2016–17.

Tour dates:

  • National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka, 9 June to 19 July 2016
  • Kagawa Prefecture Museum, Kawaga, 5 August to September 2016
  • Ichihara Lakeside Museum, Chiba, Tokyo, 1 October 2016 to January 2017
  • Kushiro City Museum of Art, Hokkaido, April to May 2017

Background: About the Canning Stock Route

The Canning Stock Route is the longest historic stock route in the world. Late 19th century industrial expansion in Western Australia sparked the need for stock routes allowing cattle to be moved from stations in the north to markets in the south. First surveyed in 1906 by Alfred Canning, the route comprised 48 wells spaced at intervals of no more than one day's walk, along an 1800 kilometre 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.

Although Canning's original map records observations of the land and water resources, it makes no mention of Indigenous places through which the route traversed or their associated meanings.

The development of the ultimately unsuccessful cattle route dramatically affected the lives of Aboriginal people. The National Museum’s collection is the first significant attempt to document the Aboriginal experience of the Canning Stock Route. The collection redresses Canning's omission and records the impact of the stock route on Indigenous lives and country.

About the Canning Stock Route Collection

This collection was acquired in 2009 and includes 116 paintings, sculptural works, contemporary cultural objects, documentary material, and oral histories by 60 artists who travelled along the Canning Stock Route on a return-to-country trip in 2007. This project was initiated by FORM, a not-for-profit arts organisation in Perth. The six-week journey with traditional owners inspired the artworks, many of which were produced during the journey and provided a unique opportunity for artists to reconnect with traditional lands.

The National Museum of Australia regards this collection as one of truly national significance, providing a unique archive of Indigenous social and cultural histories. It is an important addition to the nation’s heritage and history collections.

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