On the back of this book its content is praised as a “spirit-journey into the minds, hearts and dreams of Australia’s Aboriginal peoples” - but, in fact, it isn’t. Nor could it ever be, because Aboriginals would never let a whitefella enter their world that deeply, let alone someone of whose motives and knowledge they know nothing.
Arden eagerly wants to enter that mythological world that always seems to surround Aboriginal people. He takes the reader with him like a travel mate on his quest to find the Dreamtime and critically reviews his efforts. But at the end of his course he must acknowledge that he has failed:
“At best I had skirted the edges of the Dreamtime,” he admits, “I could never get in. Nor should I.” But then, Arden’s work is just a record of his search and not the insight into Aboriginal culture he would like to sell us.
By the author’s own definition a “spirit-journey” means not to wander “randomly through the bush” but to follow “preordained routes”, an injunction he himself does not obey. He meanders through the Kimberley region rather disorientated.
The book is strongest where Arden lets the Aboriginals speak for themselves, like David Mowaljarlai. But, unfortunately, it’s Arden who speaks most of the time.
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