Bruce Chatwin's The Dreaming

1077 Words5 Pages
Advantages: Interesting subject, challenging read
Disadvantages: Some readers may find it heavy, high element of philosophy
Last year I spotted a great item at a collectors fair; hidden underneath a table in a box containing all kinds of unusual items I found a beautifully framed work of art which, to the untrained eye, might just look like a pretty abstract arrangement of coloured dots. In actual fact it is a visual interpetation of a "songline" - a common theme in "aboriginal art" (for want of a better expression, as I believe correctness of the term is again under discussion)


Songlines are inextricably linked to the aboriginal concept of "The Dreaming"; the Aboriginals believe that the world is created from
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While many people know about Bruce Chatwin's untimely death, they know little about his background before becoming a successful author. Chatwin left an impressive career at Sotheby's because of a psychosomatic eye complaint and took this unexpected opportunity to study architecture. During his studies he made several field visits to Africa and Afghanistan and it was during these trips that he had the idea of writing a comprehensive theory of nomadology - his overwhelming interest. He believed that man's natural instinct is to be nomadic and that this has been put to the back of the human consciousness and people have become more…show more content…

"The Songlines" is not written in a conventional way and may challenge some readers; others hoping to read a straight travelogue which offers an insight into the reality facing Aborigines in Australia may also be disappointed. There is a travelogue element to the book but this is only a small part of it; intersperse it with verbal interpretations of the some of the songlines and stories from Aboriginal folklore, and a huge section based on Chatwin's many notebooks compiled on his numerous travels and you're just about there.

The travelogue part basically covers the time when Chatwin accompanied Arkady, a "white advocate" to the Aborigines, on a research trip to some of the communities; the aim of the trip is to work with the Aboriginals, using the songlines, to help oil companies map out where they can work without affecting sacred sites. At times they encounter hostility, but overall this is an account of how Chatwin learnt how technological progress has affected, and still does, the lives and traditions of Aboriginal people in
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