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Canning Stock Route collection

The Canning Stock Route collection includes more than 100 canvases produced by artists who travelled the stock route on a return to Country in 2007. More stories and artworks were added to the collection, which was acquired by the National Museum of Australia in 2009.

The works are grouped here by the stories that they tell. They do not tell the history of the Canning Stock Route, but the story of the Country the road cut across. All are from the National Museum’s collection, unless otherwise stated.

Ngumarnu Norma Giles, Warburton, 2008:

You paint it because you know everything. You know because as a child you walked around in the Country and with your parents and grandparents drank from those rock holes and later were taught the names of the rock holes and their stories. They taught us their knowledge so that we could survive on our own after they had passed on.
Colour photograph of an elderly woman sitting next to a young boy who is holding a painting. - click to view larger image

The art of Country: Stories still being told

Putuparri Tom Lawford, Palm Spring, 2009:

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.

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 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.

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