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The 'Myths' of Ngalakan History: Ideology and Images of the Past in Northern Australia

Howard Morphy and Frances Morphy
Man
New Series, Vol. 19, No. 3 (Sep., 1984), pp. 459-478
DOI: 10.2307/2802183
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2802183
Page Count: 20
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The 'Myths' of Ngalakan History: Ideology and Images of the Past in Northern Australia
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Abstract

The Ngalakan are an Aboriginal group from the Roper Valley in Northern Australia, who have had over 100 years of intensive contact with European colonisers. This article is about Ngalakan accounts and images of the past and their image of the 'wild blackfellow', the Aborigine before colonisation. Barthes's concept of myth provides the most appropiate perspective from which to analyse these images and the process of their construction. The relationship between the 'myths' and historical events is demostrated and their divergence from an actual historical account discussed. It is shown that the transformation of the oral history has to be understood in the context of developing relations between Aborigines and colonists, in particular the filtering of the images of the past through a 'Golden Age' of harmony in the relationship between the two groups.

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