“The story is equally important as the work themselves, the human stories.” As John Curtin Gallery’s Carrolup manager, Kathleen Toomath believes it is equally thrilling to celebrate the stories behind the lost Carrolup artworks as it is to celebrate the works themselves. The 10th anniversary of the collection being returned to Western Australia has seen another 10 drawings added to the Herbert Mayer Collection of Carrolup Children’s Artwork. On May 11, the John Curtin Gallery exhibited never-before-seen footage of the child artists creating the works in the 1940s. Toomath, whose late mother Alma was the last known surviving Carrolup artist, said paintings in the collection offered a window to the past. She said whenever she got to see a new Carrolup work for the first time, she couldn’t help but feel myriad emotions. “It’s a bit of an up-and-down rodeo, because all the joy is also equally met with some of the despairing stories,” she said. “But inevitably the good wins, and that’s what we’re about.” Curtin Fine Arts graduate Priscilla Kelly grew up with her family owning Carrolup paintings, and she recently donated them to the John Curtin Gallery. Kelly is the granddaughter of Carrolup school inspector Charles Cook. She said they were a treasured possession of her late father’s and she even hung them up in hospital for him during the final days before his death. When she saw a call-out in the news about returning potential Carrolup paintings to the John Curtin Gallery, she was immediately spurred to action. “I was so thrilled . . . I straight away wrapped them up and came to Curtin,” Kelly said. “I was absolutely ecstatic. I used to come to Curtin . . . so I was racing here after I had emailed.” The initial Carrolup works lay undiscovered in storage at Colgate University in New York City for 40 years before they were returned in 2013. Colgate University Professor Ellen Kraly also visited Perth for the 10th anniversary celebrations. Toomath said it had been fulfilling to see so many artworks returned home to Noongar Boodja, but she and the team would continue to search the globe in hopes of finding more. “Every unknown work that connects to a family brings the family of Carrolup back to life,” she said. “We’d love for people to come forward and talk to us about Carrolup, whether they have work that they think might belong to Carrolup or even if they just have family connections. “The story is equally important as the work themselves, the human stories. “Otherwise they are just pictures of landscapes on paper done with pastels. It’s what underlies that creation which is the powerful change bringer.” The anniversary exhibition Kalyagool Karni-Wangkiny [Telling Truth Always] – A Decade of Carrolup, will run until July 9 at the John Curtin Gallery. Anyone who thinks they may have found an artwork by the Carrolup children is urged to contact the John Curtin Gallery. This story was first published in the National Indigenous Times.