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Desert Dreamers

Desert Dreamers

With the Warlpiri people of Australia

Barbara Glowczewski
Minneapolis,  Univocal, 2016 [1989]

updated translation from Les Rêveurs du Désert, 1989, Paris, Plon

2016, Minneapolis, Univocal

An ethnographic adventure exploring the Warlpiri and their cultural practices of “the dreaming” in relation to their societal laws, ritual art, and connection with the cosmos.

In the heart of Australia, upon the cracked, red, earth, amongst wild vegetation, weathered bush, and dried-up creeks, there exist hundreds of invisible pathways that become entangled on the earth's surface, underground and in the sky, clouds, and wind. The Aboriginal people call them Jukurrpa: “the Dreamings”. This web is the Warlpiri land. Practicing the Dreaming, by way of ritual art, is for the Warlpiri a mode whereby they reactivate their ancestral traditions to connect with the cosmos and respond to current social and political issues.

In 1979, anthropologist Barbara Glowczewski embarked on a journey to study and learn the ways of the Warlpiri within the Australian outback. Struggling at once to maintain their traditions and cultural heritage as well adapting to the continuing secularization and embrace of the techno-progress of their European Australian counterparts, Glowczewski takes us into the landscape, artistic rituals and turmoil of the Warlpiri over three decades. Becoming accepted among Aboriginal families as a translator of their mode of existence, and at the same time a negotiator of two vastly different visions of the earth: Contemporary Western culture and the ancient indigenous dreaming culture, Glowczewski’s work becomes a singular document of ethnological field work as well as one of self-transformation and discovery. An anthropology of life. Of Desert Dreaming.

Barbara Glowczewski is a professorial researcher at The French Scientific Research Center, CNRS, member of the Laboratory of Social Anthropology at the College de France. Glowczewski has spent the past 35 years dedicating her work to advocating for Australian Aboriginal creativity employing a variety of artistic, cinematic and narrative modes of exploration.

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