George Tuckerbox: Rare Maps of A Lost Desert Land

George Tuckerbox: Rare Maps of A Lost Desert Land

Artist George Tuckerbox has seen the ancient and the ultra modern. He can remember first contact with white people. He's been a stockman and drover, worked with bullock teams, been a ceremonial singer and performer and an exhibiting artist.  He has been through droughts and driving cyclonic rains. He's performed traditional dance in Tokyo.

In a full life with many highlights it is his paintings that have stood out for George Tuckerbox. His work contains maps of the remote desert country that George knew as a child. Few people live in these areas now and there is no road access. His paintings are rare cultural records of a time when people thrived on that land.

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A new exhibition of these map paintings by George Tuckerbox will open on 2 September at Japingka Gallery in Fremantle.

As a child George Tuckerbox was part of a great exodus of Aboriginal families in the 1940s and 1950s. They moved north from their desert homelands to settlements around the Fitzroy River.

On their journey they made first contact with the white settlers. Many died from the new diseases they were exposed to. Both of George's parents perished on the journey.

George arrived at Christmas Creek Station at the age of 12. He was taken in by family members. He trained as a stockman at Yeeda Station, working with horses and cattle. He then moved back to work at Christmas Creek. George drove bullock teams from Balgo to Alice Springs across the Tanami Desert.

In the 1980s he lived at the new community at Wangkatjungka next to Christmas Creek Station. In 1987 he was a singer in a ceremonial troupe. The dancers performed traditional song and dance ceremonies in Tokyo for a major Jimmy Pike exhibition.

From 1994 senior artists living at Wangkatjungka community began painting their own traditional stories. The artists developed a bright colourful style. They combined figurative elements with a broader map-making approach to describe their country.

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George Tuckerbox painted the country and waterholes that he remembered from his childhood. Many of his paintings show the parallel rows of sandhills that flow out from Central Australia.

George Tuckerbox also contributed to large collaborative paintings done by Wangkatjungka elders. These showed the clan ownership of tracts of lands by related family groups.

Much of the history of this region lives on in the memories of these elders.  The desert country of their childhood is now completely de-populated and has no road access. The paintings are all that remain as an important record.

The exhibition of paintings by George Tuckerbox runs from 2 September to 28 October at Japingka Gallery.