Name: Clifford Brooks
Clifford Brooks - Rover Thomas and his brother [ORAL HISTORY]
Synopsis: Clifford talks about how his father left his family behind at Yalta when he was young and went droving. He travelled throughout the Country and then came back looking for his younger brother (Rover Thomas) and the rest of his family. One day, decades later, they saw Rover's photo in the newspaper and the brothers were reunited.
Language spoken: English, Martu Wangka
Catalogue number: CSROH_140_Clifford_Brooks
Interviewed By: Carly Davenport
Transcribed By: Monique La Fontaine
Translated By: Annette Williams
Recorded by: Carly Davenport
Location Recorded: Wiluna
Cultural Protocols: PUBLIC ACCESS - RESTRICTIONS ON USE
Notes: This story has been transcribed and some of the sections in Martu have been translated, however some language gaps still exist.
Clifford Brooks: Yuwo [yes]. I wanna tell you fellas what I been hear, story about my, about this old people, what been happening, and this project that is going to happen, bout the Canning Stock Route. We wanna tell you fellas bout things been happening in the past that hasn’t been recorded, what old people had it in their head. It was up here, recorded, but not written, no paper, [XX], no pencil and paper. It was up here, been recorded. And that’s how I got to get that knowledge of recording it in my head.
And this is a true story what my old man been tell me. Well, few old people been tell me different different stories. But I sort of, but I mean it took me a long time to get it to, to get it into my head. But I know that it’s true. That when my old man left his youngest brother and his mother and father, he been leave em behind in Yalta near [Well] 33. And he been go, following the droving. They been go kujarra [two of them]. He went back to look for his ngurra [Country]. Them two been go, youngfellas. They been following that droving. They been following right up until they been, til they had to branch off and go towards Jigalong way. But they used to go meet up with all the mens. Old man-pa, and he had to go back.
He been walk back through Karlamilyi River, goin back to Yalta, Yarakijikarti [?] he went looking for his young brother Rover [Thomas], old man-pa. He went looking for him, back in his home Country and [for him] paluku, mother and father, my old man-ku. He went and seen yanu [went]nyangu [nothing] — nothing. Nothing. Ngurra [Country] nyangu — nothing, empty. No track. Only track was there, wagon wheel and yawarta [horse] and bullock, that’s all. Yawarta katja [horses].
He been run into [XX] eaglehawk. They been flying around, all sort of eagles. He been get up on a sandhill and he been look down, two tali [sandhills] and in the middle of two tali: men, women and children. Walypala [whitefella] massacre, they been get shot, men, women and children. Whitefella shoot them with a rifle. Only the ones that get saved is the ones that went hunting and never came back. They camped out bush, they been only come next day kukawarnti [no meat left].
And he been tell him, he used to tell me, he didn’t know about months, day. He didn’t know. Moon. That’s all. That’s why he been tell him, ‘I’ll be back in one months. You see that moon up there? That’s when I’ll be back. I’ll pick you up on the way back, and your family, and we’ll go Country, Jigalong karti [we’ll go to Jigalong]’. And he’s alive today old Badger [XX] Jigalong. And that’s why that old fella, he knew in his heart old man-ju that his young brother was still alive, that I didn’t even know. Every time in the camp fire he used to tell me, ‘My young brother is still alive some where up north’. Back in the, kuwarri [lately] kuwarri not long, in about 90s I had a article, newspaper, read em in a paper-ku, and one old fella Wajarrijtiu [XX], ‘You know that paper, [that] face-pa? Have a look that paper, that face on the newspaper there, have a look’. And he been, ‘You know that bloke?’ I said, ‘No, I don’t know that old fella’. ‘Well you have a look at your father and you look at that face in the newspaper. That’s your young father, your father’s youngest brother that one.’
And straight away it clicked in my mind that I knew that old man was right. He was alive. And the very next day I got on the phone, I rang to Warmun, community office, I rang there and old man on the other side knew. Somebody must have told him, or something must have told him I was going to ring that day and he answered the phone and he said he knew I was ringing for him. I told him that, ‘Your oldest brother is here’, and they spoke for a little while on a two-way radio, there was no phone in that community. Them two talked. And they said, ‘can we meet?’ And I straight away said, ‘I’ll buy you a ticket. I’ll put you on the bus and you travel on that bus, you get to Hedland, jump on nother bus, you come on inland bus to Newman’. So when he arrived I got him off the bus at night, took him across to the car park. My old man was standing up and I took Rover across, and they didn’t know whether to yampulkaku [hug] or shake hand, they been cry. But I stood in the back there, I had tears coming out my eyes. I cried for them. And cos I knew, you know.
I said, ‘well, I better get something’. I told old man that, ‘I don’t drink, my old man he don’t drink, but I know that you drink’. I tell old Rover, ‘I’ll buy you wama [alcohol] and you can have a drink and you two can talk’. I took em out of the town, out bush, made a big fire and I said, ‘well, have a drink and you two can talk about it’. They been happy, talking all night, right up til day break, drinking. They been hugging one another all night now. They was really happy. From all that time. So it was about 40 years apart, they been away from each other. They only met when they was old, that’s all.
And all that time that I never had interest in paintings and arts. I was too busy, working. So, this year when I went to Turkey Creek, old people been tell me there, and my sister, Jane, she been tell me, ‘I’m doing arts now’. ‘That’s good, you should follow the old man. I’ll start up painting too’. Because I knew that in my heart, and old man tell me that, you know, ‘We gotta do painting and tell our stories through there.’ Because nobody wouldn’t believe us, so might as well do it through arts so the whole world can hear us: this is a true story that we gotta put on down on the paper. Painting Jukurrpa ngapulu [father’s Dreaming], that’s a jamumili Jukurrpa [grandfather’s Dreaming], our grandfather’s land. It’s not a thing, it’s a Jukurr [Dreaming], really, what our old people been tell us what to do. That’s why we gotta carry this so the people in other country can have a look too: what is true, that’s never been recorded. So, what we talking about kuwarri [now] is a history we gotta do. So, that’s why I do painting kuwarri ngayinpa [me now?] because of my old man been tell me, ‘tell your stories through painting’.
I’m sure other people are doing it too through painting too, to tell their story. [XX] they been telling us. [XX] So, we wanna try to get, to get together, tell our story about our Country, because it’s our life. It’s in that Country there, our jamu [grandfather], and our grannies. Yuwo [yes]. Palya [good].
Carly Davenport: Palya [good], Clifford do you want to tell a little bit about how when you went to Warmun you visited the grave, and then you and another family member wrote for [XX] grave?
CB: Yuwa [yes]. I been in Turkey Creek for that pinyi [funeral] time [ XX - ... old man-ku] and Mala my family there in Turkey Creek, sister been, they been get a headstone, they been put it in the grave there and there’s a story there. If anybody want to have a look at that story there it’s been written, in English, and it’s been written in Kija, their language in Turkey Creek. I been there last year when I had a look. It’s a true story where old man been travelling. He been patayanu patangyulpayi [looking – spelling?] for his young brother and he been looking for his mum and dad, patangyipi, [looking for – spelling?] kapali-ku [his grandmother] and for his father, [my] jamu [grandfather], that’s how that headstone there in Warmun community, gravesites got a story there. That me and my oldest brother wrote, where them two been apart from each other for 40 years. They only met lately in the ‘90s, they only met. So, it’s a history, what we gotta keep, it’s never been written on a paper, it’s been written in here [points to head]. Yuwo, palya [yes, good]!
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.