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Exhibitions galore – the Year of Indigenous Languages in sight and sound

Indigenous Languages, IYIL, Jane Simpson, Shape

Date: 8 November 2019

Centre members are involved with no less than five exhibitions currently on show in Adelaide and Canberra.

Ankkinyi Apparr, Ankkinyi Mangurr (Our Language, Our Designs) is the product of an approach to language and cultural repatriation and revitalisation work that incorporates art-based practice. Consulting linguist and Centre alumna Samantha Disbray says that for the descendants of the Warumungu speakers recorded in 1966, the recordings are more than language data. “Arts-based practice offers different ways for people to engage with, respond to and repurpose the recordings,” says Samantha. “During this CoEDL corpus building project, we have created a soundscape, artworks and a set of videos commissioned by ICTV.”

Ankkinyi Apparr, Ankkinyi Mangurr exhibition opening

The Ankkinyi Apparr, Ankkinyi Mangurr exhibition was opened by Kaurna language revival activist Jack Buckskin. Seated are curators Samantha Disbray, Rosemary Plummer Narrurlu and Sandra Morrison Nangala with Prith Chakravarti, who recorded the original material in 1966. 

Artist Joseph Williams expressed the personal meaning of this approach:

It’s good to hear them stories from the ol’ people… [It’s] very important to keep it, not to lose that, those stories, very valuable... Listening to the voices helps me a lot. I can think, think a bit wider with my heart and my interest in art… I can share those stories with my style of art. I open my mind right now to get a broader, bigger picture, to do art, and to do better than I did before.

Part of the Tarnanthi Festival, the exhibition is on show at the State Library of South Australia until January 25th; then in Alice Springs in June, and in Tennant Creek at the Desert Harmony Festival in August 2020.

Meanwhile, the ANU Menzies Library is hosting an exhibition to enable an appreciation of the diversity, understanding and importance of Indigenous languages. Indigenous Languages at ANU draws on the extensive collections of the ANU Archives, including Ngunnawal listings from Marie Reay’s research papers and the Library’s wealth of Indigenous Language resources from Australia, Asia, the Pacific and beyond. There are key contributions from PARADISEC, the cartographic and geographic information system services team (CartoGIS) and the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau.

Centre Deputy Director Jane Simpson said CoEDL is proud to have assisted with the development of the exhibition, which highlights the work of ANU linguistic legends such as Stephen Wurm and Louise Hercus. “However it’s not just documentation, it displays teaching materials being produced right up the present day," Jane said. “This is an exhibition that truly covers the breadth of languages that people at ANU have worked on and the breadth of materials they’ve created.” (Hurry – last days!)

Jane Simpson at ANU Menzies Library

Jane Simpson inspects the famous map by Geoffrey N. O’Grady, Stephen A. Wurm of ANU, and Kenneth L. Hale (1966) which was the first to show the boundaries of the Pama-Nyungan language family, showing that it is geographically discontinuous.(Gamilaraay / Yuwaalaraay alphabet poster in background.)

Just down the road at the headquarters of AIATSIS, Ngalipa Nyangu Jaru: Pirrjirdi Ka Ngalpa Mardani (Our Language: Keeping Us Strong) is a celebration of the International Year and demonstration of the importance of language for each of the communities represented: the Ngunnawal, Warlpiri, Meriam and the Aboriginal communities of the Pilbara region, who shared their stories and culture. The exhibition is on display in the Rom Gallery at AIATSIS in Canberra until the new year, with a supplementary online version available for those who cannot visit in person.

Back in Adelaide, the Tarnanthi Festival is also the next stop for Still in my mind: Gurindji location, experience and visuality, which reflects on the enduring impacts of dispossession and displacement, including those of a pivotal land rights event, the 1966–75 Gurindji ‘walk-off’. Using photographs, paintings, video, digital platforms and archival material, it presents a multilayered picture of cultural continuity, connection to Country, possession and dispossession from diverse standpoints, demonstrating how Gurindji and associated peoples keep the past present through kinship and cultural practices. Led by artist and Centre Affiliate Brenda L. Croft, it’s on at the South Australian Museum until December 8th.

Just south of Adelaide, Painted Stories: Linking Country, art and culture for language revival, shows how artists and Elders are using their paintings, artwork and songs to pass on their knowledge of language and country to younger generations. The exhibitions is a visual showcase of the languages of the Cape York Peninsula and was developed by the Pama Language Centre, where General Manager Karin Calley is also an Ancestral Language Facilitator and a CoEDL Affiliate. It’s on at the Hahndorf Academy until the 17th of November.

Rosemary Plummer Narrulu and Samantha Disbray

Rosemary Plummer Narrurlu from Tennant Creek being recorded telling stories, originally narrated by her father father Teddy Plummer Jakkamarra in 1966. (Samantha Disbray in foreground. Photo by William Thompson).

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University