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The Bliss Blog

The Bliss Blog

Wisdom Man

                                                                          

Australia is one of the go-to places on my ‘bucket list’ as I have long been fascinated with its culture and the concept of ‘dreamtime’.  Along came a book that placed me smack dab, at least vicariously in the landscape as woven in the true life tale of Aboriginal Elder Banjo Clarke whose 2000 funeral was a testament to the love that this man embodied while he walked the Earth.

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In Banjo’s  dialect, the story was told to Camilla Chance; who encountered him in a (no pun intended:) chance meeting in 1975. She is an author, book reviewer, lyric writer and speaker whose love of Aboriginal culture is evident in this meandering back and forth walk-about journey. As his children spoke of in the foreword, Aboriginal culture values oral tradition and this is story telling at its finest. It took 27 years for this shared labor of love to be birthed and the result is well worth waiting for. A collaborative effort, Banjo seemed to take delight in taking the reader along for the trip. To understand how precious this book is, know that written references to Aboriginal spiritual practice are rare. Clearly, there was mutual trust between the two.

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He was uncertain of his date of birth which is appropriate to this story, since Banjo believed in simultaneous occurences. “There is no past, everything is still happening.” He was born into the Kirrae Whurrong tribe of the Gunditjmara nation on the Framingham Mission in the 1920’s. Not educated in the mainstream world; he left the classroom as a youngster when he saw a teacher hit another child. From then on, life became his teacher. He respected his traditions, all the while, carrying them with him into modern life. Always feeling a connection with his ancestors, and the land on which he lived, regardless of how much he traveled about, the last telling line in his dialog with Chance, offered a small hint of his devotion: “You always come back to your homeland. You always come back.”

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Much like the racism that African American people have faced in the U.S., so too have Aborignal people encountered in their native land. What is admirable about Banjo throughout the story is that he held fast to his beliefs that people are inherently good and those who act in violent, negative ways, are simply unhappy. Not that he excuses it, but explains it.  He encountered people, including Chance, who are of the Baha’i faith that painted much of his world view as a result. Seeing kindness and acceptance, it fed his already open-hearted manner.

Photographs of Banjo and is family of origin, the next generations and family of choice that he attracted throughout his life give the reader a sense of his impact on those around him. A family tree in the front of the book highlights the generations the precede him; he descended from Aboriginal chiefs, but his sense of royalty emerged from his heart. He expresses pride in the next generations of Clarkes who will, no doubt carry on Banjo’s loving legacy.

www.wisdommanbook.com

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment wendy

    Thank you Edie, for highlighting this man and his story. I am blessed to live in Australia and doubly so because I count many “aboriginal” people as my friends. I love this land with a passion and feel a shared sense of “spirit of place” with all who honour the great southern land as I do, none more so than those whose dreaming has imprinted their footsteps across this red earth since the earliest days of humankind’s existence.

    I feel very drawn to the stories and “dreaming” of our traditional land owners and work closely with many to promote their art, music, dance and culture. They in turn inspire my own creativity. Yet all the beauty of their stories are steeped with the pain and degradation of the clash between “colours” and early settlers intent to dominate and teach their ways as superior. It often brings me to tears to hear how humans can treat each other in this way, and at times I feel such shame for what white people have done to the traditional people of Australia. How ironic that we can now look clearly and see that in fact, the “original” ways are far more superior and fitting to this country than anything our early settlers tried to instil and force upon it. And that true harmony can only come by working together and honouring the true culture of our Aboriginal brothers and sisters. At least that is the way I see it. I look forward to finding this book and reading about Banjo’s story.
    thanks again Edie….

  • http://www.liveinjoy.org Edie Weinstein, MSW, LSW

    WOW! I am blown away by your comments. I look forward to visiting your beautiful country. How did you find this blog entry? No accident apparently that you discovered it. I know you will enjoy the book.

    Blissings,

    Edie <3

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Camilla Chance

    Thank you so much for the inspired review and later comments. I have sent the blog link to Banjo’s children and grandchildren. If Wendy, and others, wish to order the book they can do so from amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com through my website, http://www.wisdommanbook.com, or, knowing it is published by Penguin Australia and also distributed by Penguin U.S. and Penguin Canada, they can order it through any bookstore. “Wisdom Man by Banjo Clarke as told to Camilla Chance” is used by many Aboriginal schools and communities, and also by one New York school. All profits from the book go to Banjo’s children and to fulfilling his dream of a place on his tribal land where people from all walks of life can learn the best of Aboriginal ways.

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