Australian Screen

Australia’s audiovisual heritage online


Rare Indigenous ethnographic recordings

To mark World Day for Audiovisual Heritage this year we’re highlighting some rare Indigenous moving image and audio recordings.

Chez les Sauvages Australiens (1917) is a French silent film with intertitles. The rare footage depicts young Aboriginal men performing a spear throwing ritual for the camera, men in dugout canoes, a close-up of traditional body scarring and a family using rafts to cross the water.

Torres Strait Islanders (1898) is the world’s first field footage of Indigenous peoples in Australia. It was recorded by AC Haddon, while he was on an expedition with Cambridge University, just three years after the invention of the cine-camera. Only four and half minutes survives but shows dance sequences and traditional fire-making practices.

Tribal Music of Australia (1953) features Dr Adophus Peter Elkin’s ethnographic recordings of sacred ritual songs in the Yolngu homelands of Arnhem Land, made between 1949 and 1952.

And finally one of the only recordings ever made of Tasmanian Aboriginal songs and language is Fanny Cochrane Smith (1903) – like Tribal Music of Australia, part of the Sounds of Australia register.

Explore more titles on ASO about Indigenous cultures here.

Chez les Sauvages Australiens historical – 1917

Torres Strait Islanders historical – 1898

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Sarah Rhodes

A strong interest in art, documentary photography and cinematography has taken Sarah Rhodes on a delightful journey into the lives of others. From working as a photojournalist, to photographing artists and producing the coffee table book, The Artist’s Lunch, Sarah now finds herself using digital media to share stories about film in Australia.