Collection details
Collection ID WDVA1
Title Western Desert Verbal Arts Project
Description This is a collection of verbal arts and speech styles from the Western Desert of Australia, in particular those of the Ngaanyatjarra and Ngaatjatjarra peoples. The mutually intelligible Western Desert dialects Ngaanyatjarra, Ngaatjatjarra and Pitjantjatjara are still spoken by approximately 2000 people who reside in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands region of south-east Western Australia. Their oral traditions are central to cultural practice and social interaction. They embrace sign language and gesture, narrative practices as well as the use of graphic symbols that accompany sand story narratives and turlku (song and dance) and games. These multimodal speech arts are a valued aspect of the traditions of Western Desert people, yet they are highly endangered.

From 2012-2019 Ngaatjatjarra linguist Elizabeth Marrkilyi Ellis worked with linguistic anthropologist Inge Kral and linguist Jennifer Green to document these endangered verbal arts. With women and girls we filmed the traditional practice of mirlpa, or sand storytelling, and with younger storytellers we recorded their adaptation of this drawing practice to iPads. Tjuma or other oral stories were documented, with male and female storytellers. We also recorded children's games and songs 'Tjilkuku - for children' as well as traditional sign language. This collection draws on various project sources.

The research was supported by ELDP (Endangered Languages Documentation Programme) Small Grant SG0187. Jennifer Green was supported by an ARC (Australian Research Council) Fellowship (DP110102767) and Inge Kral by an ARC DECRA Award (DE120100720). The next phase (2015-2019) was supported by an ARC Discovery Indigenous Fellowship (IN150100018) for Elizabeth Marrkilyi Ellis. And an ARC DECRA Award (DE160100873) for Jennifer Green. Enormous support also came from the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language (CE140100041).

In 2020 two books were published by UWAP (University of Western Australia Publications):

Kral, I. & E. M. Ellis (2020) In the Time of Their Lives. Wangka kutjupa-kutjuparringu: How talk has changed in the Western Desert. Perth, WA: UWA Publishers. Awarded: Honorable Mention - Society for Linguistic Anthropology Edward Sapir Book Prize (2021).

Kral, I., J. Green & E.M. Ellis (Eds.) (2020) i-Tjuma: Ngaanyatjarra stories from the Western Desert of Central Australia, Perth, WA: UWA Publishers.

We have had an issue with the online storage of the QR Codes for i-Tjuma and In the Time of their Lives.
If you have either of these books the original QR codes in the published books are unfortunately defunct.

New QR codes for each book can be found in this collection, held in item BOOK_QR_Codes:

i-Tjuma: WDVA1-BOOK_QR_Codes-i_Tjuma.pdf
In the Time of Their Lives: WDVA1-BOOK_QR_Codes-In_the_time_of_their_lives.pdf
Archive link
Inge Kral
Operator Julia Colleen Miller
Originating university Australian National University
Countries To view related information on a country, click its name
Languages To view related information on a language, click its name
Region / village
DOI 10.26278/5b589e9084c3b
Cite as Inge Kral (collector), 2012. Western Desert Verbal Arts Project. Collection WDVA1 at [Open Access].
Access information
Edit access Inge Kral
Data access conditions Open (subject to agreeing to PDSC access conditions)
Data access details
Items in Collection (105)

Item Title Actions
BOOK_QR_Codes New Book QR Codes View
IPAD_01 Tjarlaku View
IPAD_02 Tjarlaku - Going for honey ants View
IPAD_03 Kukaku - A hunting story View
IPAD_04 Tjukurla View
IPAD_05 Tjarlirli - One day in Tjukurla… View
IPAD_06 Desert Dust-up Disco View
IPAD_07 Going out bush View
IPAD_08 Camels at Tjarlirli View
IPAD_09 Tjukurla View

Show 10 Show 50 Show 100 Show all 105