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My old man [Rover] told me, 'We gotta do painting and tell our stories through there'. Might as well do it through arts so the whole world can hear us.
Clifford Brooks, Wiluna, 2006
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Canning Stock Route by Rover Thomas
Rover Thomas, ochre and natural binders on canvas, 105.5 x 60.5 cm
The spiral form in this painting is a waterhole on the Canning Stock Route where cattle stopped to drink on their way south to Wiluna. It is possibly Kunawarritji (Well 33), where the young Rover was picked up by drovers in the 1940s.
Holmes à Court Collection.
Canning Stock Route Country by Clifford Brooks
Clifford Brooks, Birriliburu Artists, Tjukurba Gallery, ochre and binder on canvas, 147 x 91 cm
In 2007 Clifford travelled the entire Canning Stock Route, retracing the journey of his father's brother, Rover Thomas. Clifford paints his parents' Country along the middle stretches of the stock route, including the story of his father's search for Rover. Rover's story has become part of the Country that Clifford paints and, through the use of ochres, an inspiration for the way he paints it.
Blood on the Ground, Wells 33-41 by Clifford Brooks
Clifford Brooks, Birriliburu Artists, Tjukurba Gallery, acrylic on linen, 150.5 x 75.8 cm
Clifford's father, Charlie Brooks, was away travelling when Rover was taken by drovers. When Charlie returned and found Rover gone, he went looking for him. On this journey he encountered a horrible scene somewhere near Well 41:
[My father] went looking for his young brother Rover back in his home Country, but nothing, empty. No track. Only track was wagon wheel and yawarta [horse] and bullock, that's all He been get up on a sandhill and he been look down whitefella, massacre. They been get shot: [Aboriginal] men, women and children.
My Father Looking for his Brother by Clifford Brooks
Clifford Brooks, Birriliburu Artists, Tjukurba Gallery, acrylic on linen,
75.7 x 51 cm
That old fella [Clifford's father, Charlie], he knew in his heart that his young brother was still alive. Every time in the camp fire he used to tell me ... 'My young brother is still alive somewhere up north'.
Clifford Brooks, Wiluna, 2007
Charlie Brooks and Rover Thomas were finally reunited in the 1980s, a lifetime later, after family recognised the artist's face in a newspaper.
You have got to come back to your Country. You should have come through the Canning Stock Route. You went away from here through the stock route and you should have come back here, through the stock route. I've been waiting for you.
Charlie Brooks to Rover Thomas, 1986
Lake Disappointment by Clifford Brooks
Clifford Brooks, Birriliburu Artists, Tjukurba Gallery, acrylic on canvas
152 x 95 cm
Clifford's father set off in search of his brother Rover Thomas from Martilirri (Well 22), just north of Lake Disappointment. Clifford painted this canvas on his return from the 'return to Country' trip, having been given permission to paint this area by Jeffrey James, who, like Clifford's fathers, also belongs to Kunawarritji (Well 33).