Birth is culture. They are interwoven as one on a woman’s unique road to Motherhood.
“…When I went to the Coorong, Murray River, for my first visit I knew I wanted to sit in the dirt with the Aunties and weave. Weaving is a girl’s right of passage into womanhood – once you learn to weave you are ready to fall pregnant. I got to weave only a few stitches but within less than a month I was pregnant with Estelle.
The first time she touched the earth was on this mat. Made by one of the master weavers from our tribe – Ngarrindjeri – down south. Her feet were dusted with earth from where our dream story began. The flower on her back was made by my mother from Pelican feathers. The women originally made them to sell to the “tourists” (treasures made by the exotic other) – it was the only item they had to trade which ensured they could stay “in country” and not be removed in the assimilation policy.
After making placenta prints (tree of life) my placenta was encapsulated. The umbilical cord we dried in a spiral (the spiral is the symbol for women) and wrapped it in a placenta print with a copy of my story “Returning to Country”. I then bound it with paperbark and twine and buried it in country. The women from my culture have buried their babies’ placentas and umbilical cords for years.
I felt a strong connection to the land when I visited my ancestral country for the first time. I also felt deeply saddened by the fact that I had grown up detached from my heritage. In a way I felt lost from my soul’s song. I wanted Estelle to be born into that connection and know what it is to be connected to her people and the land. I want her to know belonging and not to have to spend a good part of her life, like I did, in search of it.
I felt privileged that my Aunties and cousins embraced my choice to do this for Estelle. It was a powerful move to realign my life with my culture.” -Natalia
We caught up last week and I shot Natalia and Estelle on that beautiful hand woven mat again. Estelle obviously has grown but less obvious is the growth of Natalia. The road as a Mother is one of constant growth, her child, the greatest teacher.
All of the images of newborn Estelle on her mat were taken about an hour and forty five mintues after her birth. She had been at the breast for an hour or so. We literally popped her on the mat for a minute or two, took some quick shots and then she was straight back in her mamas arms and onto the breast again.