The Tywerrenge as an artefact of rule: The (post) colonial life of a secret/sacred Aboriginal object

The Tywerrenge as an artefact of rule: The (post) colonial life of a secret/sacred Aboriginal object Journal Article

History and Anthropology

  • Author(s): Batty, Philip
  • Published: 2014
  • Publisher: Routledge
  • Volume: 25
  • ISBN: 0275-7206

Abstract: In this article, I examine an Aboriginal ritual object, the secret/sacred tywerrenge which in many respects lies at the heart of Central Australian Aboriginal religious belief. Given its ritual power, the tywerrenge has always held a special place in the administrative rationalities of both colonial and post-colonial authorities. For certain missionaries, the tywerrenge was seen as an object to be eliminated as it constituted an impediment to Aboriginal ?salvation?. For early anthropologists such as Baldwin Spencer, they offered material evidence supporting social evolutionist theories regarding the ?staged? transformation of ?primitive? religious beliefs into science. More recently, tywerrenge have been subject to an intensive regime of inspection and evaluation by government authorities, museums, and land councils. Indeed, they have come to play a significant role in the enforcement of Australian law under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act since the possession of a tywerrenge can decide the ownership of traditional lands. In short, these religious objects?and the beliefs associated with them?have been co-opted and employed by a variety of authorities in order to achieve a range of governmental ends. In this sense, tywerrenge have been transformed into instruments of colonial and post-colonial rule.

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Suggested Citation
Batty, Philip, 2014, The Tywerrenge as an artefact of rule: The (post) colonial life of a secret/sacred Aboriginal object, Volume:25, Journal Article, viewed 14 August 2022, https://www.nintione.com.au/?p=14342.

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