Putuparri Tom Lawford
Putuparri Tom Lawford - advising on the Canning Stock Route Project [ORAL HISTORY]
Synopsis: Putuparri Tom Lawford talks about his work as a cultural advisor on the Canning Stock Route Project, and speaks at length about the issues that surround the exhibition.
Art centre(s): CSR Project, Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency, Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre
Language spoken: English
Catalogue number: CSROH_214_Putuparri_Tom_Lawford
Location Recorded: Old Halls Creek
Cultural Protocols: Public Access
Full transcript: Nicole Ma: Maybe what we should do is just say who it is and the day. Putuparri Tom Lawford: So I look straight at that camera, or there? NM: Let’s see you looking at Carly. It’s good if you could do both, because you’re talking to her and you’re talking to the audience too so whatever you feel like. Carly Davenport: So we’re talking to Tom Lawford on the 18 November at Palm Springs I think it’s called, just outside of the top of Halls Creek … So Tom, you’ve been working on the project the longest out of everyone in terms of the full team. What, what do you think’s been the best thing that you’ve seen in working with all the other people from all the different areas coming together? TL: Best thing is seeing all their hard work coming together, one big area in Canberra and all the old people handed on that stuff, we got some sent with us and yeah, it’s all getting exciting, and yeah. CD: And you started working with the Return to Country trip in 2007 as cultural advisor and translator and you’ve been in that role ever since, and from that first big trip to Country, how have you seen the project grow? TL: Well from a little trip, it turned out to be a big trip and today it’s getting more big, and too all this stuff will be not only here in Australia but travellin’ round a good way to showcase Canning Stock Road where people come from and what it mean to them. CD: And what do you think it means to them? TL: The Canning Stock Road is place of spiritual, like a Dreaming place for old people and this fella just came along and put wells in there, and all that area is Countrymen people, but Dreaming place too. And another that thing he did, that road it move people away to different towns. And another way – it’s a good thing too so people know where they come from, and their families, and they can travel on the stock road to meet people they know quicker. CD: And for telling the story for history the right way, because a lot of people are telling us this, this is the right way it should be told for Fitzroy Crossing people, what do you think they value in the project? TL: Well, Fitzroy people, they’re from that area anyway, the Canning Stock Route area, and they all left to come into stations and town and, like it’s, to them it’s like showing where they come from and where they belong to, where there heart is really, what they paint, what people paint – it’s not line or anything, it there Country, how they see it and this project, yeah, gonna do real good for them and it’s gonna open a lot of eyes – white people eyes – to find out the history of the Canning Stock Route through Aboriginal people. CD: And do you think that Fitzroy Crossing people are really happy for that message to go all around the world? TL: Yeah, yeah, they all happy and welcome. CD: And tell us a little bit about your role, it’s been a really important one for everything we’ve done form the beginning, anything you wanted to say or talk about … TL: What I’m doing on the project really is making sure what you mob say or do is the way that we feel is culturally not the wrong way. Like getting stories from one people sometimes, you know they, don’t like telling stories, like they can tell you a story, good stories, but some people don’t tell you other stories because too sad or something, but yeah, my job is to make sure that everything is working smooth, and going on … following that one line, not turning off and anyway. CD: Yeah, you’ve really helped with helping for trust with all the old people especially, and young people to go yeah, that project, that team, they’re doing alright, and Putuparri’s working with them, and if they get off track, he’ll make sure they get curators on the right track, so it’s been really valuable. How’ve you found the young curators on the project so far? TL: Yeah they alright, they learning too, they alright, yeah they getting there. You know, you got Louise from Kununurra and she’s from, we’re all from a different tribe and a different area and working on this Canning Stock Route Project, and yeah she’s doing real good, getting there. CD: And Murungkurr Terry Murray? TL: Yeah, he’s an alright bloke, he, yeah, happy go lucky bloke, and he don’t like to talk too much but, he doing the best he can and yeah, and them three young curators, Hayley, Louise and Terry, they make them old people proud with what they’re doin’, and they should be proud because they, they up there, the main people. CD: Tom in your work for [KALACC - ?] and lots of different things, for that movie and all around the world, you’ve been doing lots of different things for your people. How do you feel, as a custodian of this project, that this message will be received from people around other countries? TL: Yeah, well I’m sure that a lot of people from other countries heard about the Canning Stock Route, but not through what we’re doing, what we’re doing is from a different way of what they’re seein’ or heard about the Canning Stock Route, like it’s through Indigenous people, through our people, how they are seeing the Canning Stock Route come to life. CD: Do you wanna talk a little bit about some of the histories, and things that you, that happened out there at all? TL: Yeah, I know a little bit about what happened, a lot of killings mainly, there’s all that, and our, most of our old people was working for all them mob, taking cattle up to Wyndham, and they were meeting people on the road, black people, bush people, and telling them you gotta go back this way, there’s a big mission there, and taking people back. CD: People were treated really roughly weren’t they? TL: Yeah, some people were treated real rough, and a couple of ladies got treated real bad too, there too, from Canning and his crew. CD: Do you reckon that arts a really good way of getting those stories out for people to accept and learn and talk about? TL: [nods] This project we’re doing, this project is doing what – the history thing, but real history that’s coming up through the project, through painting and stories, that’s where people will see what happened on the Canning Stock Route. They think, tourist think it’s just a road. You can travel on the Canning Stock Route, but the Canning Stock Route got a lot of history from Wiluna to [XX - ?]. CD: And your role, really importantly as translator, you know many languages, do you wanna talk a little bit about the different languages and the different groups, so the people can really understand that it’s not just one people? TL: Yeah, for the Canning Stock Route, there’s too many different language groups in a room , you know you got Martu people, [XX - ?] people, [XX - ?], [XX - ?] , you know, [XX - ?] all mixed and they all from one area, from the one road, but they’re all living in towns, you know some live in [XX - ?], Fitzroy, down here near Halls Creek, they all everywhere, but all from that Country and they all got stories to tell in their own different language group, that’s why I do translate all their stories into English from all their different language group and make sure that it’s all right story not other story. CD: Has that been a really big job for you? TL: Yeah, big job – sometimes it hard, sometimes easy but we have to do it, to figure it out. Some good stories, some sad stories, But that’s how life goes, I guess. NM: What would, if there was one thing that people would take away from looking at this exhibition, what would you hope that that would be, the one main thing? TL: What I hope the people take away from this exhibition is the truth of what the Canning Stock Route is about , and yeah, the truth really. How the Canning Stock Route came about. How it moved people all around the Kimberly area. CD: How important is leadership for all the young people for all the different jobs? How important do you think it is for these young ones to work in the arts, work in film? TL: I reckon it’s important because art tell you too many stories, old people, stories they paint, that little painting or big painting tell you too many stories about that Country and it’s important because young people now days don’t understand that, you know. And the mob now growing up need to understand that isn’t just a painting, they look at it like ‘ahh, look at this painting, it’s just lines over this dots and this scribble everywhere’, but all them things got stories, got meaning and, like that old lady when she paint that tree Well 35 story, and when you have a look at it, that’s not a painting. But that painting’s got history, too many stories, and that’s what these young people they don’t understand. I think through this project it might make them more understand. CD: You were the main facilitator, you were the dude that put the whole Ngumpan workshop together, and some of the things you said at the time were pretty important when it came to the old people exchanging to the younger people, can you say anything about that intergenerational sharing? TL: Yeah, that woman, with the [XX - ?] woman, [XX - ?], [XX - ?], there’s one dance that hasn’t been performed for a number of years, because it’s Country on the Canning Stock Route, and we decided that we should ask this old fella, grandfather, [XX - ?], teach this other old fella, old Hanson Boxer, that dance and yeah, and teachin’ and singing them all singin’, and we had a meeting there, a lot of old ladies, Mon was there, Me, Tim I think, just talking about all the dances, [Kaningarra - ?], that dance and talking about to open up again so people can learn and sing and dance again, and it happened at Ngumpan, yeah. Hansen Boxer he danced a song and old people. What made me notice was, old people, they only really the ones who know how to sing it, and they aren’t gonna be there too long and we need to do more teaching, that’s what, were I work, back in Fitzroy, we’re talking about recording all these songs, the whole lot from [XX - ?] right down to [XX - ?] and the new one and other stuff too, you know record. CD: For that Ngumpan workshop there, it was the biggest group of people wasn’t there? TL: Yeah well, we cater for about 40 or 30 people but more than that came, we had too many kids, yeah all the kids were there doing something dancing – that’s teaching yeah, from old people down to the young ones and they’re all , yeah, they like dancing all them kids. CD: Was it true that all them young boys were lined up at the petrol station trying to get into cars? TL: Yeah, when we went into town to pick up a couple of stuff from [XX - ?] and fuel up, there were all these blokes, or one bloke come ask me for a lift to [XX - ?], and I said, ‘yeah come on, you can come’, and I thought it was one, then we had a car load. All these young boy from [XX - ?]. We take ‘em back and they all camped there, camped at the spring. They all had come for this workshop and plus we had ladies there teachin’ young girls how to make coolamon, boomerang making stuff, and collecting little [XX - ?] or little grass [XX - ?], yeah we camped there, one week. CD: And through this project time, do you wanna remember and list all the places and communities that you’ve been workin’ with [XX - ?], you’ve been to a lot of different parts of the Western deserts together, just so the audience can understand how you’ve been moving around. TL: Yeah, well from [XX - ?] to Cotton Creek, [laughs] ahh, from Cotton Creek to 33, yeah from everywhere [XX - ?], [XX - ?], [XX - ?], Fitzroy, this project here it take me everywhere, I thought, to me really this project was only in our area, but he went right down, goes through too many language groups, and you know you got , probably get people living in Perth and they probably come from that area, parents or grandparents come from [XX - ?]. And yeah, it’s in a way real good meeting up with people, other people from that one road, through the project. And these girls are, Hayley and Louise, and young Morika, for them too, you open their eyes too so they can meet other people, make them more proud in what they’re doing. CD: You’ve been to Perth as well, next year when we launch this exhibition you’ve got a really important job, because if anything, you know you’re keeping an eye on all of us, making sure everything’s happening properly. You’re very much the statesman for the project, for the politicians, leaders from around all the other states who will be coming and do you wanna … ? TL: Yeah well next year I’m gonna be the main part, so I’ll be making sure that people like John [laughs], and everybody doing the right thing. And yeah, we’ll have ministers and all kind of people there. All them people, who don’t even know about the Canning Stock Route, and with what they seen, they’ll find out what the Canning Stock Route is really. CD: Also a good chance to talk to them about any other ideas or things that KALACC is needing or wanting, what the old people are saying, you’re gonna have a direct communication. TL: Yeah well, when we’re talking in [XX - ?] too yeah, yeah like [XX - ?] and all kind of people I think through this project, them kartiya people might see what we do through FORM with this CSRP and then we got Kimberley people and Pilbara people, they’re strong people, strong minded people, so we gotta talk to them more. NM: Probably that’s a lot of what people don’t know that there are strong people there, you only hear the bad news. TL: Yeah, because what we do at KALACC, we do other stuff too – bringing back remains, and this and from Canberra mob too, so then find out that we people, we know nothing we got, we can talk to them and through this project we got one road, one, like all the people, all from that CSR they got one mind and one heart. One wangka [language], that’s what will make them see. CD: That’s beautiful. NM: Yeah. TL: That’s why this project got started, because there’s so much talent, so much strong talent and people in the region in a remote area, and that’s what the rest of the world needs to know. And particularly through KALACC and Mangkaja, that valley, in that valley there’s just so much happening. TL: Yeah, not too many stuff happening in Fitzroy at the moment. CD: Families are strong there though. TL: Mmm. CD: That’s the other thing that comes out from this project, really naturally, people sharing their stories. TL: Yeah, like this project, he like a family, like one big family, we all go together like one big family, from one area. Even though we come from other language group, different language groups. We’re all one. And from that one is that one history of all the whole road. CD: Wow, that’s cool NM: Fantastic. END
Video format: DVD/MiniDV/Quicktime movie
Video recording: 106 Kimberley Approvals, Tom, Louise IV's, Nov 09
Rights: Cultural Owner & Storyteller: Putuparri Tom Lawford; © FORM, transcript only
Provenance: This material is sourced from Ngurra Kuju Walyja — the Canning Stock Route Project, which was initiated in 2006 by FORM and developed in partnership with Birriliburu, Kayili, KALACC, Mangkaja, Martumili, Ngurra, Papunya Tula, Paruku IPA, Warlayirti and Yulparija artists and art centres.