Yiwarra Kuju – The Canning Stock Route is a landmark touring exhibition travelling from Canberra to Perth, Sydney and Brisbane, and internationally. It is a project initiated by National Museum of Australia in partnership with the art group FORM in 2006 and a part of Ngurra Kuju Walyja — One Country One People.
It describes the history of the Canning Stock Route from the perspective of Aboriginal people:
- through new media: interactive display, digital films, etc.,
- features more than 100 vibrant artworks and significant cultural objects from 10 Art Centres (Birriliburu Artists, Mangkaja Artists, Kayili Artists, Martumili Artists, Papunya Tula Artists, Walayirti Artists, Yulparija Artists and Ngurra Artists),
- involves more than 80 artists including Jarran Jan Billycan, Lumu Lucy Loomoo, Elizabeth Nyumi, Wuntupayi Jane Gimme, Yupinya Eubena Nampitjin, Nora Wompi, Jakayu Biljabu, Dadda Samson or Jartarr Lily Long.
The Canning Stock Route cuts a single line across three deserts — the Great Sandy, the Little Sandy and the Gibson. With a total distance of around 1,850 km it is the longest historic stock route on earth. The stock route was proposed as a way linking the Kimberly to the Kalgoorlie goldfields at the beginning of the 20th century. Although the non-Indigenous history of the stock route is fairly well-known, the Aboriginal story has until now only been glimpsed in paintings of celebrated Aboriginal artists like Rover Thomas and Eubena Nampitjin.
The Canning Stock Route Project tells an intercultural and intergenerational story of community, collaboration and reconciliation. It was always aimed to be more than the production and presentation of art. The principal objective is to explore history and the cultural diversity of Aboriginal communities.
Yiwarra Kuju – The Canning Stock Route is defined by a remarkable collection of oral histories, which vividly bring the culture and history of the region to life. More than 200 oral histories were recorded by “the Canning Stock Route Project”, mostly in traditional languages, and more than 80 of these were translated by a team of skilled Aboriginal translators led by Ngalangka Nola Taylor and Putuparri Tom Lawford. This rich fund of cultural knowledge, conveyed in the artists’ own words, shaped the broader story of Yiwarra Kuju and brought the extraordinary history of this region into national focus for the first time.
Putuparri Tom Lawford’s Words:
“I hope what people take away from this exhibition is the truth. How this road came about, how it moved people all around. Most kartiya [non-Indigenous people] don’t even know about the Canning Stock Route. When they see the exhibition they’ll find out what the stock route is really. This Project gonna open lotta people’s eyes, to find the true history through Aboriginal people”. – Putuparri Tom Lawford, 2010
30 July 2010 – 26 January 2011 – National Museum of Australia, Canberra
2 November 2011 – 27 November 2011 – Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre, Perth, WA
17 December 2011 – 29 April 2012 – Australian Museum, Sydney, NSW
25 May 2013 – 14 July 2013 – Queensland Museum, Brisbane, QLD
A smaller version of the exhibition, Kaninjaku: Stories from the Canning Stock Route, was on show at the Museum’s First Australians Focus Gallery in Canberra from 2015 to 2017.
Another exhibition, One Road: Aboriginal Art from Australia’s Deserts, based on Yiwarra Kuju: The Canning Stock Route, was on tour in Japan in 2016 and 2017.
Catalogue of the exhibition: Yiwarra Kuju – The Canning Stock Route
SOURCES: Canning stock route project and National Museum of Australia