Iwiri was formed to bring together the growing Anangu (Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara) community living in Adelaide for health and other reasons. Iwiri strengthens the community through the holistic lenses of arts, language, knowledge, culture and community. Singing is healing to the body and soul and music is a powerful force for hope and reconciliation in Australia.
Iwiri continues the Ernabella choral tradition of 4 part hymn singing in Pitjantjatjara language. Ernabella was a Presbyterian Mission established by Dr Charles Duguid in 1937 and with the arrival of a teacher in 1940, children were taught hymn singing. A significant feature from the commencement of Ernabella Mission was translation of the bible and hymns into Pitjantjatjara language. Duguid directed that staff learn and quickly operate in Pitjantjatjara language, including all aspects of church services and school instruction.
There was no formal ‘choir’ in the sense that everybody sang together on a daily basis until a group travelled to Adelaide on the back of a truck for the Queen’s visit in 1954. From 1958, the choir was conducted by Rev Bill Edwards along with the assistance of Andy Tjilari and Gordon Ingkatji, a team that would continue this choral work for the rest of their lives.
The choir is conducted by Sam Osborne. As Principal at Ernabella School, Sam worked with Gordon Ingkatji to re-establish the Ernabella School choir and toured several times with a children’s, adults and combined choral repertoire.
In 2019 the Iwiri choir performed at Hymnfest (St Peter’s Cathedral), Tarnanthi Festival – Ku Arts Symposium (Elder Hall), South Australian Languages and Education Symposium (UniSA, City West), and Dance Rites Festival (Kurruru collaboration, Sydney Opera House).
Iwiri has a growing program in translation work and teaching children in traditional dance and culture.