Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Yiwarra Kuju – Canning Stock Route

This splendid exhibition at the National Museum of Australia till 26 January 2011 is so much more than the sum of its parts. It tells the story of the Aboriginal people who were affected by the Canning Stock route in Western Australia.

The glorious paintings, commissioned for the project, are the jewels around which the exhibition is organised. Each perfectly lit painting glows against the dark walls.  

Some paintings tell Dreamtime (Jukurrpa) stories, like the Seven Sisters (Pleiades) shown below, while others tell episodes of life history, like the 1957 story of how ten-year old Tjungurrayi was taken to hospital by helicopter by a mining survey party.    

Minyipuru (2007)

The Canning Stock route is a familiar name to most Australians, but most of us are vague about its location, so the maps in the exhibition were very helpful in establishing just where these things happened.

For me, the experience of the paintings as art works was helped immensely by the supporting material about the purpose of the paintings and the context in which they were produced.  In general, museums seem to do a much better job than art galleries at presenting fuller contexts for works of art. The visual aesthetic is just one aspect of these works which sprang from a desire to pass on cultural practices and memories.

This project is clearly a part of the process of continuing and creating culture. I am glad to see that the exhibition is supported by a comprehensive website that provides extensive links to essays, people, stories, and, of course, the glorious paintings.

This is an exhibition that deserves to travel.  Does anyone know whether it is scheduled to visit other centres?

Posted by Gillian Savage