Preserving Hahndorf’s Indigenous history through art


Hahndorf is seen by many as South Australia’s German hub, but there is 2400 years of Indigenous history there and locals in the community are working hard to make sure it is not forgotten.

In late December 1838, ‘The Zebra’, a ship captained by Dirk Hahn, arrived in South Australia, and carried Lutheran immigrants to establish a new life. Soon after, in 1839, Hahndorf was established in the Captain’s name, but who were the Indigenous people there before Hahn?

Before the area was named Hahndorf, it was known as Bukartilla and it was frequented by the Peramangk people. Bukartilla translates to ‘deep pool’ or ‘wash place’. The area was named after several creeks which empty into the Onkaparinga River.

Upon visiting the town, tourists may not know the history of Hahndorf before Captain Hahn arrived, but Harold and Neriba Gallasch at Tineriba Gallery on the Main Street make it their mission to open people up to Indigenous culture.

Harold and Neriba have been running an Indigenous art gallery for more than 40 years. “Art represents humanity,” Neriba said.

The two-storey gallery contains a large selection of modern and historic Indigenous art, both available for purchase and for exhibition.

Harold grew up in Glen Osmond, while Neriba became involved with Indigenous communities in the late 1970s after arriving in Australia from Papua New Guinea. “Ngarrindjeri; that’s another group of people, that’s down the Coorong where really they’re the first people I sort of hang around and I used to get all excited to get information,” she said.

Harold and Neriba’s passion for preserving Indigenous culture made their gallery a hub for artists coming to Hahndorf.

“I’d always collected Aboriginal cultural items and the art was becoming a little bit known… we had the Ngarrindjeri coming through to go to Adelaide… they’d stop, come in and we’d get to know quite a number of the artists in particular,” Harold said.

“This was a one stop place; it’s either us or the museum (to learn about Indigenous culture) …there was no place where they can share their (Indigenous) culture so we were interested,” Neriba said.

The couple was also involved with the Hahndorf Academy, which is situated in an heritage building and contains a museum, art gallery and shop.

“One of the functions of the Hahndorf Academy when we organised that, going back 25, 30 years, was to be a cultural museum,” Harold said.

“A few years ago, we were trying to set up a Peramangk room there so that people were interested… but that hasn’t got off the ground yet,” he said.

The couple spoke about their battle with various administrative boards to create a dedicated area for information about the history of the Peramangk people.

“You always get a block from different boards from year to year which is a great loss,” Neriba said.

However, Harold maintained that administrative boards’ resistance to include a dedicated area for Hahndorf’s Indigenous history was not due to hostility.

“It’s not any antagonism, it’s just not a core interest of theirs… it’s mainly voluntary stuff you know, so you put your effort where your heart is,” he said.

But the couple are still fighting to raise awareness of Peramangk culture in Hahndorf. “We’re a young nation in some way and we’re an old nation and you got to know both history,” Neriba said.

Neriba stressed the importance of documenting Indigenous history. “We’re all learning ’cause there was a period there where nobody want to talk about this except a few people who are always recording history, which we can refer back to,” she said.

Harold and Neriba are eager for others to teach and learn about Indigenous culture. The couple have loaned their gallery for Indigenous cultural exhibitions from other Hahndorf locals. “That’s a magic way of celebrating… one [culture] learning about the other one,” Neriba said.