Welcome to Country: A Traditional Aboriginal Ceremony

In a front-of-book note, author and senior Aboriginal elder Aunty Joy Murphy explains, "The Wurundjeri Wominjeka (welcome) ceremony is a cultural greeting by the Elders (liwiki), who give permission for yannabil (visitors) to enter onto their traditional lands."

Talk about a warm welcome: "We invite you to take a leaf from the branches of the white river gum," begins the text on a spread honoring guests; four hands reach for offerings on a plate of food. On another spread, "We thank you, for you have now joined with us to pay respect to the spirit of our ancestors who have nurtured this land for thousands of years" flanks an illustration showing diaphanous people and birds flying before concentric earth-toned circles that seem to represent the planet. In the book's concluding spread--"Wominjeka Wurundjeri balluk yearmenn koondee bik. Welcome to the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri people. Welcome to Country"--two dozen individuals stand in a line facing the reader in an unmistakable gesture of acceptance.

Kids may pick up Welcome to Country: A Traditional Aboriginal Ceremony expecting something less abstract, but they won't be disappointed. Murphy's book-length meditation invoking Wurundjeri customs and values is beguiling, and Lisa Kennedy's acrylic paintings--some so multilayered that they could pass for embroidered tapestries--are dazzlers. That Kennedy depicts the Wurundjeri people with their eyes closed works with Murphy's first-person-plural narration to suggest a group prayer of benediction. While Welcome to Country uses the distinctive voice of the Wurundjeri of Australia, it speaks to everyone. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

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