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The last of the Cannings
That's why I do painting about my memories, me and my sister and brother, and my families.
Dadina Georgina Brown, Wiluna, 2007
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Georgina standing with her mother, Naomi in 1976.
Georgina standing with her mother, Naomi in 1976. Photo: Harry Leaver from Born in the Desert, Hesperian Press, 2009.
Dadina Georgina Brown was just six years old when she came in from the desert. When she was found, she was clutching an armful of dingo pups.
Forbidden to marry under traditional law, Georgina's parents, Naomi and Nyama, had run away from Wiluna. For years they had been living and travelling in the Gibson Desert, in the region east of wells 13–19. It was here that they raised Georgina and her younger brother Yuddi.
Leaving the desert
In 1976 the Gibson Desert was in the grip of terrible drought. Mudjon Freddy Freddy, a relative of Naomi and Nyama, was concerned for their safety. He had been a guide for many expeditions led by Stan Gratte, and he enlisted the explorer's help to find them.
Mudjon sent out a signal at Well 19. Receiving a faint smoke in response from the east, he headed out with Gratte's party. When the vehicles could go no further, Mudjon set off on foot. He eventually found the family 100 kilometres south-east of Well 18. Gratte gave Nyama an English name: 'Ben Canning'.
Georgina's parents always longed to return to their desert Country, but their worried relatives prevented it. They both died in Wiluna. In 2009 Georgina returned to the Country where she had grown up.
Where I Was Born by Georgina Brown
Georgina Brown, Birriliburu Artists, Tjukurba Gallery, acrylic on canvas, 116 x 119.6 cm
We like to go back and see that Country where me and my brother born. My older sister passed away there. Me and her used to play around together. It was really happy for me and her. And I lost her, then it was sad for me, but then I had my little brother. I used to nurse him when he was a little baby. We had a lot of little dingoes to play with.
My Country by Georgina Brown
Georgina Brown, Birriliburu Artists, Tjukurba Gallery, acrylic on canvas, 122 x 100 cm
It was really happy for [my parents] at bush. Not in town. When we came here [Wiluna], we wanted to go back. Mum and Dad went halfway [back to their Country]. [Our relatives] still follow us and got us and bring us back into town. [Dad] didn't want to hang around here.
My Country by Sheila Friday Jones
Sheila Friday Jones, Birriliburu Artists, Tjukurba Gallery, acrylic on canvas, 124 x 99 cm
I come from the desert with my three brothers. Our family come from Mungarlu area. We went [through] Carnegie Station, me and all the old peoples. They used to steal the mirrka [food] from the whitefellas just to keep us going. Georgina Brown's mother was travelling with us, she's my sister. We were the first ones to walk into town. One tracker was following us round and round because old people been stealing mirrka. But we were a little bit tricky for him.