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Massacre and Rover Thomas Story – Texas Downs Country

This painting records two incidents that occurred on Texas Downs Station in the Kimberleys in Western Australia. The events are divided by the line that represents Horseshoe Creek.

The upper scene depicts a massacre that took place early in the 20th century. It is part of Aboriginal oral history but is not reflected in Western written histories of the area. The images represent a time when Aboriginal men killed a bullock on the station. They were pursued and shot by white men (represented by the white hats) and the bodies were then burned in an attempt to disguise the incident.

The scene depicted in the lower half of the painting represents an incident when Rover Thomas and Queenie McKenzie (c. 1930–98), were out mustering and Rover was thrown from his horse. The horse trod on his head and scalped him. Queenie boiled a needle and sewed his scalp back on, saving Rover’s life.

In later years, Queenie and Rover Thomas became two of the most significant Aboriginal artists from the Kimberley region, with strong national and international reputations. In 1998, Queenie was declared a State Living Treasure for her commitment to the arts and to teaching the Kija language.

This painting is both a monument to memory and a wonderful depiction of country. It offers interpretations of the past that are not part of the official records. It is also a distinctive landscape painting and is representative of work from the Kimberleys region, with the use of white dots to define major features of the landscape.

Part of the Spirit Country Collection, the painting was donated by the Gantner Myer family to the museum in 2002.

Massacre and Rover Thomas Story
 Massacre and Rover Thomas Story

 Massacre and Rover Thomas Story

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Massacre and Rover Thomas Story – Texas Downs Country (1996), Queenie McKenzie, ochre and clay on canvas, Gantner Myer Collection
Dimensions H 140 x W 100 cm
Registration No. X 78653
Image source: Museum Victoria.
Courtesy of Red Rock Gallery

© Museum Victoria Australia