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Thursday, 4 July 2019

Review: Baby Business

The first book for author / illustrator Jasmine Seymour introduces us to the First Nations rituals that connect new born children with Country. It’s a delightful and instructive journey into the beginning of a Gurung - child’s life, joining it to the land, its roots and family.

First the Aunties share the stories of their smoking as is tradition. Women and children gather around. For the smoking, paperbark and termite mud is needed. Green leaves are added protection from sickness and to chase away bad spirits.

Smoke on the feet, chest, hands, and on the mouth. Each has a symbolic reason. Smoke on the ears from the child’s totem which is to be respected and cared for throughout the child’s life.  These are beginner’s lessons on the Indigenous laws.

Illustrated in simple bold-lined images in colours of earth and nature, each one represents the unity between the people and their surroundings; the earth beneath them and the sky above.

I loved the way Seymour created an ethereal presence with the smoke to represent something deep and powerful. It’s a reference to the soul that shouts its importance. The trees in the background appear misty and floaty; the native plants bright against the dark earth alive. Kangaroos watch the smoking through this transparent white fog. Crows fly on every page.

This traditional ceremony had been created with heart. Children will learn many things from these publications which are now frequently emerging after a long slumber.

Many countries in Europe and I’m sure in other regions of the world, carry out baby rituals which are still practiced today. Each tradition comes with symbolic rituals that are everlasting and are strings that join the past to the present.

Jasmine Seymour is a Darug writer, illustrator and a primary school teacher from the Hawkesbury River in New South Wales. Darug words used are explained at the end.

 Title: Baby Business
Author/Illustrator: Jasmine Seymour
Publisher: Magabala Books, $24.99
Publication Date: June 2019
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781925768671
For ages: 5+
Type: Picture Book

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