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Tjikana Cooper (c. 1909–1971)

by Kath Apma Penangke

Tjikana (Tjikarna) Cooper (c. 1909–1971), Luridja (Luritja) woman and domestic servant, was born on Arrente Country in Central Australia in around 1909. In mid-1920 she was taken from her home at Ntaria (Hermannsburg mission) by the anthropologist, geologist, and medical practitioner Herbert Basedow as a companion for Apma Undelya, an eleven-year-old Arrente girl he had kidnapped from her family. Cooper and Undelya were taken to Basedow’s home at Kent Town Adelaide where they worked as domestic servants. Golden haired as a child, Cooper grew into a ‘tall and dignified’ woman whose stitchery was reportedly ‘exquisite’ (Mail, 1933, p 2). When Basedow died in 1933, she and Undelya were given to his three unmarried sisters, Blanca (d. 1936), Elsa (d. 1946), and Hedwig (d. 1963). In the late 1930s Cooper gave birth to a daughter, whom she named Elsa, presumably after the middle Basedow sister, but the child was sent to live at Colebrook Home. Cooper died on 20 August 1971 at Kent Town, Adelaide, and was buried in West Terrace cemetery.

‘Black Girls Mourn Benefactor’, Mail (Adelaide), 10 June 1933, p 2

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Kath Apma Penangke, 'Cooper, Tjikana (c. 1909–1971)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 17 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Cooper, Tjikarna

c. 1909
Northern Territory, Australia


20 August, 1971 (aged ~ 62)
Kent Town, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

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