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Ngunguntarra, The Canning Stock Route


The glorious painting below is by Eubena Nampitjin, a wonderful depiction of a place called Ngunguntarra, near the Canning Stock Route in Western Australia.

It depicts two waterholes, or ‘yinta’ as they are called in the Kukatja language. These waterholes are a permanent source of water in Eubena’s country, and this particular site is surrounded by ‘Tali’ or sand hills which fan out around them. If you take a look at this painting up close you can see that it is meticulously painted with many thousands of tiny intricate dots!


Ngunguntarra by Eubena Nampitjin. Acrylic on linen Canvas, 120 x 80 cm

The Canning Stock Route is a 1,850 km long cattle track that runs from Halls Creek in the Kimberley region to Wiluna in the mid-west of Western Australia. It is the longest historic stock route in the world, even in a 4x4 it takes 10 to 20 days to complete the difficult journey across the desert!

The route was created in the early 1900's, but the land has been occupied by the Aboriginal tribes for an estimated 30,000 years. A number of Aboriginal people worked successfully with the cattlemen, and droves relied on the skill of these Aboriginal stockmen and women. However, as with many colonial developments in Australia, it had a negative impact on some of the 15 Aboriginal tribes whose land the track crossed, and this led to deadly clashes.

As a way to recognise the Aboriginal perspective and their treatment, in 2006 an independent cultural organisation called 'FORM' created an arts initiative to explore the complex history of the Canning Stock Route through contemporary Aboriginal art. The work produced in collaboration with Aboriginal artists and art communities led to he most successful exhibition in the history of the National Museum of Australia.

This projects' legacy is a greater understanding of the effects of colonial actions on the Aboriginal people, as well as a successful aboriginal art scene which produces work such as this wonderful painting by Eubena.

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© Nadia Phillips 2020