Nura's vision: Nura's voice

Suzanne Bryce
Julia Burke
Linda Rive
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University of Hawai'i Press
For Nura Nungalka Ward (1942–2013) the art of teaching was a lifelong passion, culminating in Ninu grandmothers’ law, published by Magabala Books (2018). This autobiography is an extensive ethnography of daily life for Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara families still living on their traditional lands amid the profound changes brought by the arrival of white settlers, doggers, missionaries and atomic bomb tests. Nura’s achievement – compiling her life history illustrated with striking photographs into an English language autobiography – seems like a natural progression. Until you consider that Nura spoke and taught in Pitjantjatjara, her Aṉangu (Aboriginal) language from the remote northwest corner of South Australia, and the fact that she possessed no family photograph albums. How did she make that leap, way beyond her life experience in an oral storytelling tradition, to embrace the idea of a book? How did the return of archival records to Nura’s kin via a digital repository in the early 2000s help shape Nura’s memories? This chapter details Nura’s process: her compelling drive to teach and her willingness to embrace new technologies, such as the digital archive Aṟa Irititja, which she first used to record her knowledge and then drew on to achieve her ambitions. We discuss the complexities that occur when accessing the digital content and Nura’s vigilance in ensuring that she broke no cultural rules in the process. We also share Nura’s decade-long journey as she collaborated with three non-Aboriginal friends to move her spoken word story through the digital archive and into the printed form, in what is the most significant publication to date to be sourced through the Aṟa Irititja Project.
supported memoir, Indigenous languages, oral history, archives
Bryce, Suzanne, Julia Burke, and Linda Rive. "Nura’s vision: Nura’s voice." In Archival returns: Central Australia and beyond, edited by Linda Barwick, Jennifer Green, and Petronella Vaarzon-Morel, 285–301. LD&C Special Publication 18. Honolulu & Sydney: University of Hawai’i Press & Sydney University Press, 2019.
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