The Song Keepers

The Song Keepers: ancient German hymns find new life in Australian outback.

Naina Sen’s joyful, compassionate film about an Aboriginal women’s choir shows the complex, unexpected consequences of colonisation.

There is a scene about an hour into Naina Sen’s documentary The Song Keepers in which a woman in her 60s ascends a ridge. The surrounding terrain is harsh desert, the red-hued country synonymous with the Australian outback. Below, nestled among the green blooms of towering eucalypts, is a patchwork of corrugated tin roofing that is the small, remote township of Areyonga. Visually the shot is sumptuous: a striking, sun-drenched panorama that alludes to the extent of isolation experienced by the Aboriginal communities that feature in the film. But that’s not all it is.

The woman is Theresa Nipper, a member of the Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir that is the subject of The Song Keepers. Seated on the crest of the ridge, Nipper reveals a personal history that will challenge how many viewers situate themselves in relation to the impact of colonialism on Aboriginal cultures.

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