Why I love Australia by Bronwyn Bancroft
Little Hare, 2010. ISBN 9781921541780.
In her speech at the launch of this book, the Governor General, Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC, began by acknowledging 'the traditional keepers of the land where we gather --- [and those] who work to preserve and shine light on our nation's ancient and contemporary cultures through drawing, painting, print and paper, sculpture and installation'. When you pick up this beautiful, illustrated journey through Australia's awesome and unique landscapes you immediately understand why Ms Bryce is so reverential.
As the reader travels from the ancient time of the Rainbow Serpent who shaped the land to the 'modern city lights like a jewelled necklace adorning an ancient landscape' via 'the soft edges of crusted salt pans that create drawings on the land' and the 'shards of rainbow and swaying tentacles of watery light in a coral reef' you begin to get an inkling of the relationship that the indigenous people have with their land. It is living and life-giving with the human spirit intertwined and integrated in every image, just as it should be.
Every scene has a person holding a coolamon with curls of smoke rising from it, representing the traditional smoking ceremonies that Aboriginal people conduct to show their respect for those of other language groups or countries and their Ancestors. In the notes at the end Bancroft says, 'The person you can see on each page is the host to each of the landscapes. He wishes you well as you visit his country and make your acknowledgement to the Ancestors and Elders past and present of each place.' Even without this explanation, the reader has an emotional connection with this book and you find yourself continually returning to the pages to almost inhale the trademark colours, shapes, and patterns of the artistry. There is a depth, a connection, an experience that even goes beyond actually visiting the place. You can hear the 'suburban homes that chatter under a patchwork of rooftops'; join in the 'bush cricket played on ants' nest pitches with friends and family anytime, any town'; and feel the 'beams of secret light and strong warrior trees of the rainforest.'
In her speech, the Governor General describes Bronwyn Bancroft as 'a master craftswoman of vibrant, visual narratives' and 'Why I Love Australia' is an exemplar of this. It totally encapsulates why we all love Australia. It deserves that very rare honour of having the Governor General launch it.