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Moving Tongues: Language and Migration in 1890s Melbourne

October 5, 2016 @ 8:00 am - October 30, 2016 @ 5:00 pm AEDT

Moving Tongues is a heritage exhibition, held at Melbourne City Library, curated by Nadia Rhook in partnership with La Trobe University. It will co-exhibit with John Young’s acclaimed art installation 1866: The Worlds of Lowe Kong Meng and John Ah Siug.

From the mid-19th century, the colonisation of Kulin lands saw migrants from far flung corners of the globe settle in Melbourne. Most spoke in English; others, in tongues including German, See Yup, Sam Yup, French, Hokkien and Italian. In the 1890s, some 1200 migrants from South Asia remade the city’s language-scape.

Now, the Supreme Court more frequently heard witnesses testify in Hindi, Pashtu and Arabic, and court interpreters were employed both to translate court proceedings and to survey Melbourne’s so-called ‘Asiatic’ centres of Little Bourke and Lonsdale streets.

The city’s halls of power, though, remained dominated by English-speaking men, and a proposed Immigration Restriction Act threatened to reduce the city’s linguistic diversity.

Moving Tongues and 1866 Launch: Wednesday 5 October, 6-8 pm

Moving Tongues city walking tour: Saturday 8 October, 12 -1:30 pm

Lost and Found in Translation panel talk: Saturday 15 October, 12-1pm


Dr Nadia Rhook
La Trobe University


Melbourne City LIbrary
City Library Gallery, 253 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, VIC 3000 Australia
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