Nganka: Birthing on Country as an Intergenerational Healing Practice

Photographer Bobbi Lockyer captures the traditional birthing and smoking ceremony rituals of the Kariyarra, Ngarluma, Yindjibarndi, Ngarla and Nyul Nyul peoples

By Museum of Freedom and Tolerance

Bobbi Lockyer

Bobbi Lockyer

Bobbi Lockyer is a Ngarluma, Karriyarra (from the Pilbara) Yawuru, Nyulnyul (from the Kimberley) Aboriginal woman living a semi-traditional lifestyle. Her passion and love for Country inspires her creativity.

Lockyer’s strong family connections to land, people and health are embedded in her work. She envisages art as healing.

Nganka and kurlukurlu (2019) by Bobbi LockyerMuseum of Freedom and Tolerance

Nganka and kurlukurlu (mother and child)

Aboriginal culture is spirit and being, a connectedness to land, water, air and spirit from before birth until birthing. The mother is in tune – song, dance, melody, art, creation. Woman, the carrier. Mother, the giver.

Ngarla woman with her son, pregnant with second baby 2 (2019) by Bobbi LockyerMuseum of Freedom and Tolerance

Nganka and kurlukurlu (mother and child)

Ngarla Nganka (mother) with her son, pregnant with second baby.

Ngarla woman with her son, pregnant with second baby 1 (2019) by Bobbi LockyerMuseum of Freedom and Tolerance

Nyul Nyul woman with first born daughter (2019) by Bobbi LockyerMuseum of Freedom and Tolerance

Nyul Nyul Nganka and kurlukurlu

Nyul Nyul woman with first born daughter.

Bobbi's Story

Lockyer’s maternal grandmother was taken away in the Stolen Generations, and her story underpins Lockyer’s love for maternity and Country. Her grandfather’s story of social activism and fight for country gives her determination and pride.

She is passionate about Birthing on Country as a healing practice for the intergenerational trauma imparted through colonisation.

Kariyarra mother and Yawuru father on Kariyarra Country with their first born son 3 (2019) by Bobbi LockyerMuseum of Freedom and Tolerance

On Country

Kariyarra (Port Hedland) Nganka (mother) and Yawuru (Broome) father on Kariyarra country with their first born son.

Kariyarra mother and Yawuru father on Kariyarra Country with their first born son 1 (2019) by Bobbi LockyerMuseum of Freedom and Tolerance

Kariyarra mother and Yawuru father on Kariyarra Country with their first born son 4 (2019) by Bobbi LockyerMuseum of Freedom and Tolerance

The Mia Mia

The Mia Mia is a shelter where pregnant women would go and wait for the birth of their baby.

Connecting with Country, walking a path well-trodden by their mothers, grandmothers and the women who came before them.

Kariyarra mother and Yawuru father on Kariyarra Country with their first born son 5 (2019) by Bobbi LockyerMuseum of Freedom and Tolerance

Ngangka under the Mia Mia with Kurlukurlu

Ngangka sits under the shelter of the Mia Mia, nourishing her kurlukurlu.

Burrgurndagayi (to smoke)

Smoking ceremony of babies is done to strengthen and protect them as they grow. It heals and calms them of any anger so they are respectful of themselves, their family, other people and their culture.

Ngarluma mother and daughter with baby son on Ngarluma Ngurra 1 (2019) by Bobbi LockyerMuseum of Freedom and Tolerance

Burrgurndagayi

Ngarluma Nganka (mother) and daughter with daughter's baby son on Ngarluma Ngurra (Country). 

Ngarluma mother and daughter with baby son on Ngarluma Ngurra 2 (2019) by Bobbi LockyerMuseum of Freedom and Tolerance

Ngarluma mother and daughter with baby son on Ngarluma Ngurra 3 (2019) by Bobbi LockyerMuseum of Freedom and Tolerance

We are strong, we are resilient, we are powerful.

Yindjibarndi woman, awaiting birth of first son 2, Bobbi Lockyer, 2019, From the collection of: Museum of Freedom and Tolerance
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Yindjibarndi mother and daughter, awaiting birth of daughter's first son, Bobbi Lockyer, 2019, From the collection of: Museum of Freedom and Tolerance
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Yindjibarndi woman, awaiting birth of first son 1, Bobbi Lockyer, 2019, From the collection of: Museum of Freedom and Tolerance
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“Celebrating First Nations culture and new life through photography is very important to me. I’m so proud of my culture, so proud of our people. Despite everything we as Aboriginal people have faced, with intergenerational trauma, racism, oppression, grief, loss of identity, culture, family, our people, more than you can even start to imagine. Despite all of that, we are rising up and standing strong. We are resilient.” – Bobbi Lockyer

Credits: Story

All photography by Bobbi Lockyer.

These images were made on Kariyarra, Ngarluma, Yindjibarndi, Ngarla and Nyul Nyul Country.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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