Farewell my country? Hermannsburg, Gus Williams, and the indigenised Heimatlied

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Australian Studies, 2017, 41 (1), pp. 18 - 31
Issue Date:
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© 2017 International Australian Studies Association. This microhistory focuses on a little-known aspect of Indigenous musical life in the 1960s in the Lutheran Hermannsburg Mission (now Ntaria) in Central Australia. I contemplate the possible meanings arising when Gus and Rhonda Williams translated the secular German Heimat- cum-Wanderlied [song of home-cumwandering], "Ade du mein Heimatland", [Farewell to you my homeland], into Arrarnta as "Ade pmara nukai" [Farewell my country], and "presenced Indigeneity" for a predominantly non- Indigenous, southern audience. I explore how a German song became "travelling culture"; how it was received and modified to suit both missionary and Indigenous purposes, in the process both expressing a vernacularised Arrarnta Lutheranism, as well as maintaining music’s vital role in Indigenous culture, including as a signifier of love of country. I further examine how the song could have a political meaning in the nascent land rights context of the day, as an assertion of attachment to country or "Indigenous Heimat" that could resonate back, across a cultural divide, with a non-Indigenous Lutheran audience.
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