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Rover (Julama) Thomas

Punmu - The Universe - 1995 - 1997

screen print on cotton rag paper c, natural ochre
94.0 x 134.0 cm
EST. $3,000 - $5,000

MP #265


Adrian Newstead Fine Art and Studio One Canberra
Cooee Art Gallery, NSW
Private Collection, NSW


Toyota Dreaming, Cooee Art Gallery, 1998


The Dealer is The Devil - an insider's history of the Aboriginal art trade, Brandl & Schlesinger, NSW, 2014, pp17-29

Size: 76 x 111 cm (image) : 94 x 134 cm framed


Rover Thomas was born in Martu country but he and his brother Charlie Brooks were picked up as young kids by Wally Dowling to become drovers. After working in the cattle industry, Charlie eventually settled back in Martu country while Rover lived out his years amongst the Gija at Turkey Creek. 


In 1995, Maxine Taylor and Serge Brooks set up Warmun Traditional Artists in Turkey Creek. The Council provided the building and the art centre managers made their wages by taking a percentage from the sale of paintings. Maxine knew all of Rover’s country as she had had looked after a large number of Rover’s extended family. She had run the local pub and the soup kitchen in the Pilbara where Rover's family lived and worked for the Department of Indigenous Affairs for more than a decade. At last Rover had people who knew his country, his family, his dreaming places, and his stories. 


The original artwork for this screen print was produced during a workshop that was organised by Adrian Newstead and Maxine Taylor with master printmaker Theo Tremblay of Studio One during their first year running the unfunded art centre. The workshop took place in the community on the 12-26 April 1995. In this particular print Rover depicted the major planets in the night sky as seen from Punmu, in his birth country.


After printing the edition at Studio One in Canberra, Adrian Newstead drove to the Kimberley taking the prints to be signed. His car was stolen in Balgo Hills and the prints later recovered from the bottom of the Mary River. This particular print sat on the bottom of the river for more than a month before being recovered. 

The story of the loss and recovery of this and other editions is related in Chapter 1 of Adrian Newstead's book, The Dealer is the Devil, An insider's history of the Aboriginal Art Trade, 2014.