In the Time of Their Lives


In the Time of their Lives is a rich evocation of ‘wangka kutjupa-kutjuparringu’: how communication and social interaction has altered among the Ngaanyatjarra, Ngaatjatjarra and Pitjantjatjara people of Australia’s Western Desert.

Ngaatjatjarra woman Elizabeth Marrkilyi Giles Ellis takes us deep into the rich linguistic and cultural practices of her community. Having collaborated with linguistic anthropologist Inge Kral for more than a decade, their combined insights portray a detailed and intimate picture of remote Indigenous Australian life rarely achieved.

This book looks at sociocultural change through the prism of language. It interweaves memory, history and translated interviews with a close examination of everyday life that takes us inside the lived experience of Western Desert people, across multiple generations, since first contact with Anglo-Australians in the 1930s. In tracing these changes through text, image and film, the authors explore the unique oral traditions of the Ngaanyatjarra: the speech styles, respect registers and verbal arts practices of this desert group.

A window to storytelling and Western Desert language socialisation practices, this book shows that participating in society and using language are intertwined activities.

With an ultimate focus on the current youth generation and the unfolding impact of digital technologies they reveal how new communication modes are sparking a regeneration of creative cultural processes, underpinned by the enduring connection that Western Desert people have to kin and country.

Paperback, 272 pages

Size: 245 x 275mm

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