Cast a aside all things familiar and join Harvey Arden on an extraordinary spirit-journey into the minds, hearts, and dreams of australia's aboriginal peoples, custodians of the oldest culture on earth. Through haunting photographs and an exquisitely crafted narrative, dreamkeepers brings to life a world where aboriginal "Dreamtime Ancestors" -- the rainbow snake, the lightning brothers, and the mysterious wandjina, or cloud-beings-still sustain the visionary belief system of a proud ancient, and gifted people.
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An interesting but nonetheless weak follow-up to Arden's (Wisdomkeepers, not reviewed) work on American Indian spirituality and values. Arden travels to Australia in an attempt to get inside that country's aboriginal culture to produce a volume containing ``Dreamtime'' stories. Dreamtime, or simply the Dreaming, is, for the aborigines, a kind of hybrid: part creation narrative and part physical map. It encompasses the mythic time when the Australian continent was born and its topography turned into a numinous landscape whose every rock and rill has meaning for its indigenous inhabitants. Yet, at the same time, it is contemporary, a place and a state of mind into which believers can enter in the here and now, thus participating in an ongoing creation. From the outset of his trip, the author encounters difficulties. Whereas, he states, his Native American informants were willing, even eager, to talk and share their innermost thoughts, the aborigines with whom he speaks are suspicious and reticent. He is told that the Dreaming is personal and not to be shared with outsiders. Ultimately, he collects very few stories. This volume documents his attempts. Despite this failure, he learns and offers readers a fair amount about people fighting to maintain their traditional culture in the midst of a foreign culture that has overwhelmed them. Though Arden makes a show of doubting the sincerity of his own motives for seeking out the Dreaming (``Get your own Dreamtime,'' one man growls. ``Don't take ours''), he is not so conscience- stricken as to refrain from peddling what he has learned. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Library Journal:
Arden, a former staff writer for National Geographic magazine and the coauthor of Wisdomkeepers: Meetings with Native American Spiritual Elders (Beyond Words, 1991), focuses upon the Aboriginal cultures of the Kimberley region of northwestern Australia. Writing in an anecdotal style, he chronicles his journey throughout the area and his meetings and interviews with a variety of Aboriginal people--political leaders, spiritual elders, creative artists, and ordinary individuals. Arden frequently points out the parallels between the Aboriginal people and Native Americans. Like Native Americans, Australian Aboriginals identify closely with ancestral lands and are in danger of losing their identity because these lands have been taken from them. Arden allows the Aboriginal people to speak for themselves--sharing their concerns, thoughts, and ideas exactly as they were spoken to him. His compelling, thought-provoking, and sensitive account of the contemporary Aboriginal struggle for identity and dignity is highly recommended.
- Elizabeth Salt, Otterbein Coll. Lib., Westerville, Ohio
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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