Mirriya (Mureeya) Texas Downs Country
Rover Thomas was a Kukatja / Wangkatjunga man born around 1926 at Gunawaggi, Well 33 on the Canning Stock Route in the Great Sandy Desert, Western Australia. Thomas worked for some years as a stockman on stations including Lissadell Station and Texas Downs Station after which he arrived in Warmun community.Mirriya (Mureeya) Texas Downs Country is tragic story about the deaths of approximately two hundred people who were killed while hiding from a storm in caves that collapsed after being struck by lightning bolt.Rover Thomas interview c1990's:SHORTER VERSION FOR SAC 2011 (GIP)Rover Thomas was a Kukatja / Wangkatjunga man born around 1926 at Gunawaggi, Well 33 on the Canning Stock Route in the Great Sandy Desert of Western Australia. Thomas who had lived and worked on stations throughout his life quickly became recognised as one of the seminal painters who established the east Kimberley art movement. Mirriya (Mureeya) Texas Downs Country, 1989, is tragic story about the deaths of approximately two hundred people who were killed while hiding from a storm in caves that collapsed after being struck by lightning bolt."Mirriya, Mirriya - big cave one, two, three. Lightning been crack - y'know - he been crack. That big hill look out all that river. Two hundred people him underneath - kid and all. All that old people, young fella - everything.Well, rock, you can't lift him up - he been fall on to them people. Mirriya - that's the country now, big cave there. That two, that's the biggest one, that's the second one that the rock fell on - that little cave there. How many people there? Kid and all, all underneath, even young girl, young boy, whole lot there see. Young boy, young girl, all the young kids y'know, they were killed at Pingkaporr. All that mob went there, last day for that mob -Pingkaporr, where they played about in this last cave."Transcribed by K Akerman from tapes made by Mary Macha.People were campng under a rock hiding from the rain when lightning struck the rock (denoted by the line across the top half of the work) and caused the rock to fall on the many people in the shelter. They were all killed. There are many large caves in this area and this was the largest.
Curatorial insightRover Thomas (Joolama) spent most of his life working as a stockman in the eastern Kimberley in the north of Western Australia. He began painting on a regular basis in 1981, and within a decade his vigorous and prolific creativity led to his selection as one of the first two Indigenous artists to represent Australia at the Venice Biennale, in 1990. In the mid-1980s the Aboriginal community of Warmun, adjacent to Turkey Creek, was the first in the East Kimberley to be recognised as a distinctive artistic region, widening non-Indigenous perspectives of Indigenous art, which had been preoccupied with the Arnhem Land and the Western Desert art traditions. (Croft, Indigenous Art: Art Gallery of Western Australia, 2001)