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Wisdom Man [Paperback]

Camilla Chance
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

February 15, 2004
Banjo Clarke was an elder of the Kirrae Whurrong, a people of the Gunditjmara nation, and was a direct descendant of Queen Truganini. He was born in 1922 near Warrnambool, and by the time he passed away in March 2000 he was known and loved by thousands for his wisdom and compassion.

Wisdom Man covers Banjo’s life from his childhood on a mission, through the grim years of the Depression, his solo travels in search of work, the birth of his eleven children, and his embrace of the Baha’i faith, which he found very close to Aboriginal spirituality. His story is one of remarkable forbearance during terrible encounters with racism, cruelty and the loss of loved ones, and is made all the more extraordinary by his lack of bitterness and anger. Wisdom Man also distils the essence of Aboriginal culture: Banjo constantly points to those aspects which he sees as relevant to all humanity, particularly in terms of our relationship with the land. Banjo Clarke embodied the spirit of reconciliation in its most generous and forgiving form, espousing and living it long before it was given a name, long before it became fashionable.

Includes a foreword by former prime minister Malcolm Fraser, who knew Banjo, and tributes by Archie Roach, Martin Flanagan, Judith Durham, among others – a sample of the wide range of people whose lives he touched. Countless people from all over the world came to Warrnambool to seek him out, and his door was always open to the homeless and the troubled.

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Camilla Chance was born in Reading, England and came to Australia in 1946. She has worked as an editor at Faber and Faber, an English teacher and a book reviewer, and now lives in Warrnambool. She became a close friend of Banjo Clarke after first meeting him in 1975. At his request she began interviewing him soon after, continuing until his death some twenty-five years later. Banjo Clarke was convinced that traditional Aboriginal values could help the world counter greed, conceit, and lack of human caring, and he wanted his story recorded in his own words by someone he trusted outside his family.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Global (February 15, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670040789
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670040780
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,774,649 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful Narrative September 14, 2004
"Wisdom Man" is an oral history of Australian aboriginal life as seen and experienced through the eyes of one man. Raised in the bush by the old people of his tribe, Banjo Clarke learned to live off the land and to survive as his people had for centuries. As he grew to manhood, he found himself caught between two cultures, his and the white man's. As the years passed the Australian regional government seized more aboriginal land and many natives were forced to seek work from whites that viewed them as lazy blacks.

Despite this Banjo grew into a remarkable man who years later became a preserver of his native culture and wisdom. Over the years, he helped many people and opened his house to troubled youth of all races and cultures. He became philosopher, teacher, spiritual advisor, and foster father to generations of people who left his company the better for having known him.

Camilla Chance, the author, who recorded Banjo's life is mentioned often in his narrative as an admired friend who understood and respected the aboriginal way of life. At the end of Banjo's narrative, Chance in turn describes how they met and their friendship throughout the years. She tells of going to the Framlingham Aboriginal Settlement with other members of the Bahai Faith. Chance also speaks about her faith and how it is in accordance with aboriginal principles. We learn of the deep and abiding friendship Banjo had with Chance and her family and his spiritual connection to her son David.

I thought Banjo's narrative interesting. It reminded me of the old storytellers of my own Caribbean culture. I enjoyed reading it and found Banjo's perception of his world to be Zen like. He did not seek to control and change his environment only to live in it with respect.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Love This Book June 15, 2006
Author, Camilla Chance, writes about an Aboriginal elder, Banjo Clarke. I read

the book in one sitting. Banjo is an inspiration to me and a hero. I defintely need

some people to look up to and Banjo is one of them.

Sherri Rosen Publicity LLC, NYC
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wisdom Man Banjo Clarke Speaks from the Heart August 6, 2010
I have always wanted to learn more about the Aboriginal people of Australia and what better source then to read the story of the Wisdom Man Banjo Clarke the compassionate life and beliefs of a remarkable Aboriginal Elder as told to Camilla Chance. Banjo Clarke met Camilla over 25 years ago despite the fact that it would seem unlikely that their paths would cross. She is from the family of exclusive English Aristocracy and Banjo was a humble Elder of the Aboriginal people. There are no accidents it seems because these two were destined to meet and they developed a friendship that lasted for over 25 years. I loved this book because it truly gave me a sense of Aboriginal life and culture because Banjo spoke honestly and directly from the heart. So I say if you are interested in learning and understanding the Aboriginals then read the words of Banjo Clarke. Now one might ask why an Aboriginal Elder would tell his story to Camilla. It is better to hear the response directly from Banjo Clarke who answers the question in his own words.

After Banjo was discharged from the hospital Camilla and her family took him in to care for him and he was quite touched by the experience.

Banjo said, "And she and her family looked after me. I thought. There must be a lot of good white people around, and we hardly met them before! Where did they come from? Grown-ups and children with open hearts.

Camilla's little ones loved me being with them. Young David was just starting to walk, and he'd keep walking out of the door wanting me to follow him. He'd lead me straight to the woodpile, where I made a stool for him. I also made a tree house for him and Ruth. He liked doing things and helping me.
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Reading the "compassionate life and beliefs of a remarkable Aboriginal Elder" like Banjo Clarke was a true eye opener and an honour to delve into. Somehow, you feel that Banjo Clarke is one of those 'wise teachers' who walk the earth at different times in human history, calling us to our true purpose and to our true selves. A mortal man nonetheless, a spiritual wise man of the Kirrae Whurrong tribe of Australia who battled hunger and racism in the Depression, who worked as a boxer and built roads amid the bombs of WWII, among many other things in order to survive, and who fought against his own demon, alcoholism, who witnessed many tragedies within his own family and among his people - despite these many difficulties, his deep and proud Aboriginal roots, attachment to the land and beautiful spirituality, strengthened by his Baha'i beliefs, safeguarded his pure heart and his tremendous capacity for love. Camilla Chance records Banjo Clarke's memories, profound teachings and great hope for the future with reverence and deep respect, unfolding a fascinating account of this committed environmentalist and authentic humanitarian whose life touched so many from all walks of life and all races. Banjo Clarke's spiritual nature is so advanced it makes me think that if we only use only 15% of our brainpower, we use even less of our spiritual power - that power borne of pure love that is so sorely needed to bring about a safe and thriving world. This book is riveting and sometimes too heartbreaking to read, but has so much to teach us, particularly here in the Western world. Banjo Clarke is someone who dares us to bring the sacred into our lives, something that we all carry within us but all too often ignore. Read more ›
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