Baby business by Jasmine Seymour

cover image

Magabala Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781925768671.
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: Aboriginal themes, Country, Babies, Smoking ceremonies. When a child is born, the women of the Darug community take the baby into the bush, gathering paperbark leaves, the leaves from green bushes and termite mound mud to prepare a smoking ceremony. This ceremony welcomes the new child into the community, making sure it will know things about the environment into which it is born and ensuring that it will follow the path of the community's laws. Warm smoke from the fire tickles the baby's feet making sure it is connected to Country; smoke winds its way to the heart ensuring the child knows it is cared for by Country; the smoke reaches the hands reminding the child that it takes only what it needs; smoke reaches the mouth and tongue keeping the language and songs of the ancestors alive and smoke reaches the ears making sure it will listen for the song of the bees, the baby's totem.
Each facet of the baby's life is mentioned in the smoking ceremony, passing on the laws that will make sure it survives just as its ancestors have for millennia.
This beautiful book shows a ritual as old as time - that of welcoming a new child into the community. All readers will be able to relate to this act be it in a church, temple, home, Country, as laws are passed on, customs reinforced, responsibilities outlined.
The book's digital illustrations, are simply stunning. The figures move through a wonderful landscape, with browns, greys and white predominant in the background, and keen eyes will notice specific plants and animals on the pages. The women's group collect their materials as they go, sitting in a semi-circle around the fire as the smoke curls up around the baby. They are all part of its growth, each taking part in its education into the community, the family a strong part of the child's development.
Darug words are used throughout the text, and many readers will work out what each word means as they read, and there is a glossary at the back of the book for those who need it.
Jasmine Seymour is a Darug woman from the Hawkesbury area of NSW and aims to make people aware that the Darug community is still there through her work. I hope this is the first of many stories from her.
Fran Knight