Sole of a nation

“Man working” (Rufus Wilton), Nepabunna, circa 1930. © South Australian Museum

Originally published in The Monthly, May 2021

The young man looks straight ahead, both eyes fixed on the camera even as his hands feed a piece of leather through the sewing machine. Daylight streams in between gaps in the corrugated iron and pinned animal skins around him, and at the front of his workbench sits a pair of elastic-sided leather boots.

It’s a recognisable style that’s come to evoke the Australian outback, pastoralism and one name in particular: R.M. Williams. But the photograph isn’t of Reginald Murray Williams – it’s of an Adnyamathanha man of the northern Flinders Ranges named Rufus Wilton.

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