In 2007 I flew to Kunawarritji and met all the artists and the team. I travelled all the way up for nearly three weeks back home to Halls [Creek], taking photos, learning about all the different groups and understanding why painting is important. I made a film out there in the desert too…
Kenneth ‘KJ’ Martin, 2009
The centrepiece of the Canning Stock Route Project’s eight-and-a half-month-long program of bush work was the epic six-week, 1850-kilometre desert journey from Wiluna to Billiluna in July and August 2007. Nearly 60 artists from seven art centres joined the convoy at various points along the stock route, returning to Country they had left in their youth. Central to this bush trip were four major artists’ camps. The largest of the camps involved seven of the ten art and culture centre groups at Kilykily (Well 36) in Martu Country.
Although the trip had been planned for nine months, it was unclear, even as the main convoy arrived at Kunawarritji (Well 33) from Wiluna, precisely how many people would be attending. Artists from a distant circle of communities began to arrive in buses, charter planes and four-wheel drives. From Kunawarritji a 14-vehicle convoy embarked on the single, sandy track to Well 36 where the largest artist workshop of the trip unfolded in the sublime tali (sandhill) Country in the Great Sandy Desert. At dawn that first morning, a camp of over 70 people awoke in a clearing among the ti-trees, with wild reeds surrounding the shallow well. Everyone formed a large circle, and the meeting got underway. It was conducted in various languages — English, Martu Wangka, Manyjilyjarra, Kukatja and Wangkajunga. It was a reunion between families and a reaffirmation of Country. For some, it was their first time in this Country, and for others, it would be their last.