FIRST LIGHT: A Magical Journey by Carol O'Biso

FIRST LIGHT: A Magical Journey

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An autobiographical account of a spiritually impoverished woman who is changed forever when she arrives in New Zealand to prepare an exhibit of native Maori art--an account that means to convince us that there is more to the world than most secular Western eyes can see, but that offers too breezy a spirituality: it comes across as part Castaneda, part Flying Nun. O'Biso arrives down under in 1982 to prepare a collection of Maori artifacts for a tour of the States, and the New Age preachiness begins: ""It is necessary to watch very carefully, to suspect absolutely everything of magic."" Chief Registrar for the American Federation of Arts, O'Biso describes, mostly through letters home, her tour of New Zealand, the search for and the identification of artifacts, and her encounters with the Maori, who demand ceremonies for their ancestors when artifacts are loaned. The book is vivid on the politics of putting together such an exhibit, but by the time O'Biso has traced out the influence of ""tapu"" (how sacred objects influence the material world), returned to New York (where her New Zealand mentor teaches her to see ""the natural forces in each of us""), overseen the exhibit-cum-traveling show (Maori travel with the artifacts), gone free-lance (""If it's not about people, I don't want to do it anymore""), and returned to New Zealand (""So the future lies in opposites""), we could do with less sincerity and more aesthetic integrity. Detailed enough to serve as a how-to for Western art specialists faced with the complications of organizing an exhibit of objects with more than aesthetic value. Too bad it's not better written: it often comes across as sincere but breathless tourism.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Paragon House