by Barbara Glowczewski
In the heart of Australia, on the cracked red earth, among wild vegetation, weathered bush, and dried-up creeks, hundreds of invisible pathways exist 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 ritual art, is for the Warlpiri a way to 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 the Warlpiri in the Australian outback. Struggling at once to maintain their traditions and cultural heritage as well as adapting to the continuing secularization and techno-progress of their European Australian counterparts, she takes us into the landscape, artistic rituals, and turmoil of the Warlpiri over three decades. Becoming accepted among Aboriginal families as a translator, 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 created a singular document of ethnological fieldwork and of self-transformation and discovery.