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Reconciliation Week Films

While flying from Sydney to Alice Springs, filmmaker and projection artist Naina Sen found herself in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. 

By Tamara Howie


The result was an epic four year journey through Central Australia, to Germany and back.

On the flight she was told about the Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir, a group of women from different communities who sing choral music given to them by German missionaries 140 years ago in their Western Arrarnta and Pitjantjatjara languages.

Intrigued, she emailed the choir director Morris Stuart about doing some projection work or a documentary for them.

“He called me and said ‘you know this projection idea, I think it could be really great because we’re developing this new show to take to Germany’,” she says.

“He was totally nonchalant.


"I said ‘Morris, are you telling me these songs, brought by Germans 140 years ago to Central Australia are going be taken back to Germany? Am I understanding this correctly?'

“He said ‘yes, like a boomerang’. 

"I said you have to let me tell this story.”

From there Sen met the women in a tiny church in Alice Springs to hear them sing live for the first time.

“It literally took my breath away,” she says.

“I grew up in India and am used to listening to music in other languages, but the depth of emotion and culture that emanated from them when they sang really hit me.”

Over the next four years Sen gained the trust of the 32 women in the choir, and documented their personal stories and their incredible journey to Germany.

“It was almost like everything I’d done to that point had been leading to this four year journey,” she says.

“You have these moments in your life where you’re exactly where you’re meant to be – and that’s what it felt like.”

Sen will be in Darwin for the screening of her film The Song Keepers, as part of the Deckchair Cinema’s Reconciliation Week program.

The program opens and closes with Warwick Thornton’s acclaimed Sweet Country, and also features Gurrumul, The Magic Pill, Westwind: Djalu’s Legacy and After The Apology.

Mon 29 May – Sat 2 Jun | 7.30pm | Deckchair Cinema | See the event listing

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