WOMEN AT THE END OF THE LAND

‘Women at the End of the Land’ expedition takes place in the Yamal Peninsula in northwest Siberia, which in the indigenous Nenets language means the end of the world. The Nenets people are travelling every year up to 1,000 km through sacred migration routes of their ancestral homeland of the Yamal peninsula.

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I am excited to announce that “Woman at the end of the Land expedition”  is proudly sponsored by the Scott Pearlman Field award. Read more about the award here

antlers1Women at the End of the Land- Expedition to the Yamal Peninsula


What is the “Women at the End of the Land” expedition?

‘Women at the End of the Land’ expedition takes place in the Yamal Peninsula in northwest Siberia, which in the indigenous Nenets language means the end of the world. The Nenets people are travelling every year up to 1,000 km through sacred migration routes of their ancestral homeland of the Yamal peninsula. Despite already surviving a challenging history during war times this culture is now threatened more than ever. Climate change, maritime traffic and new infrastructure associated with resource extraction are irreversibly transforming the tundra and gradually destroying their land essential for their survival and collective identity.

I will join a Nenets family for 60 days and travel with them during their winter pasture, crossing the forests tundra just to the south of the arctic circle and continue migrating northwards across the gulf of Ob. Only fewer places on earth are home to a more challenging environment where temperatures plummet to -50C and Nenets’ yearly migration routes cross many deep-frozen rivers. They travel between 8 to 20 km a day through the centuries-old migration routes on wooden reindeer sledges in the most extreme conditions and in the harmony with cyclical rhythms of the tundra and wisdom of their ancestors. During this time I will be accompanying a pregnant Nenet woman in her ninth month of pregnancy. With her acceptance I will be part of the whole process of preparation for the birth.

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The project entails three main components

  1. Scientific: Convey an ethnographic fieldwork through participant observation, writing, recording and filming. Field data will be used in the following: academic journals, Master’s thesis, observational filmmaking, archive collection of oral traditions for museums and ethnographical research institutions, and may feature in the future collaboration with the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Centre.
  2. Creative: Creative dimension of the project lays in using the fields of visual ethnography, photography and film to document the various aspects of the expedition resulting in an outstanding collection of images in a format of a photography book and photographic exhibitions. A British TV production crew will join the expedition in its first few weeks in order to create a one hour episode as part of a TV series on female explorers.
  3. Adventurous: An attempt to be the first solo woman to cross the Yamal peninsula together with the Nenet herders.

“Women at the End of the Land” expedition celebrates incredible resilience of Nenets women while documenting their tribal experience of pregnancy and childbirth in such extreme conditions. Besides exploring the traditional heritage, the expedition aims to also document their change and symbiosis with global changes.

I will join Nenets women herders for 60 days and travel with them during their winter pasture through the centuries-old migration routes on wooden reindeer sledges. During this time I will be accompanying a pregnant Nenets woman in her ninth month of pregnancy and explore how does nomadic lifestyle in extreme environment influences the course of pregnancy and childbirth

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The purpose of “Women at the End of the Land”

The purpose of this expedition is to explore the socio-cultural, ecological and economical aspects that influence traditional practices and the process of their change surrounding pregnancy and childbirth amongst indigenous Nenet women during their yearly migration routes crossing the Yamal peninsula in Siberia.

As part of the Wild born project the “Women at the End of the Land” expedition celebrates incredible resilience of Nenets women while documenting their tribal experience of pregnancy and childbirth in such extreme conditions. Besides exploring the traditional heritage, the expedition aims to also document their change and symbiosis with global changes.

The outcomes of this expedition should therefore not only provide complex anthropological knowledge supporting the heritage of the Nenet people, but also an understanding of their inherent cultural change and which of its influences enrich or threaten their collective identity. Only then can we truly help with their survival by respecting their inevitable cultural transformation.

Despite already surviving a challenging history during war times this culture is now threatened more than ever. Climate change, maritime traffic and new infrastructure associated with resource extraction are irreversibly transforming the tundra and gradually destroying their land essential for their survival and collective identity.

The outcomes of this expedition should therefore not only provide complex anthropological knowledge supporting the heritage of the Nenet people, but also an understanding of their inherent cultural change and which of its influences enrich or threaten their collective identity. Only then can we truly help with their survival by respecting their inevitable cultural transformation.

The project aims

Research questions supporting socio-cultural aims:

  1. How do Nenet women experience pregnancy and practice childbirth while migrating for six months across the Siberian peninsula?
  2. Which powers of their animistic belief system, which taboos, rituals and ancient knowledge influences the birthing process from early stages of pregnancy through the childbirth to the care of the child and the mother after the birth?
  3. What is the role of midwives, how does their traditional knowledge affects the course of pregnancy and childbirth and how it is passed on through generations?
  4. How do the Nenet women succeed with childbirth practices regarded by Western culture as primitive and dangerous?
  5. What are the main similarities and differences in pregnancy and childbirth practices of Nenets women compared to the Western culture? What are the main differences in the bond of mother and child, and the mother’s bond to the community?
  6. Can traditional and non-traditional practices work together to help reduce birth complications without harming traditional values? Which modern influences and western childbirth techniques increased the wellbeing of mother or child and were successfully adopted by Nenet women into their culture without harming their traditional heritage?
  7. On the other hand, is there anything within cultural heritage of the Nenet women that can inspire modern women and enhance their positive experience of pregnancy or childbirth?

Research questions supporting ecological aims:

  1. How do Nenets women relate to their lands and how they enact ecological knowledge during their pregnancy and childbirth processes?
  2. How does nomadic lifestyle in extreme environment influences the course of pregnancy and childbirth?
  3. How is the environment, their land, its minerals, plants and animals utilized in the women’s lives surrounding childbearing, such as in the ceremonies, pain management and nutrition?

Research questions supporting economical aims:

  1. How are global economy and development changing and effecting childbirth practices of Nenet women?

Expedition Advisors

MANAGEMENT

  • Alegra Ally
    Founder and Expedition Leader
    Ally is an award winning photographer, explorer and adventurer. She uses visual storytelling to provoke conversation about indigenous ecological knowledge, indigenous rights and women’s issues. Read More...
    Alegra Ally
    Founder and Expedition Leader

    Ally is an award winning photographer, explorer and adventurer. She uses visual storytelling to provoke conversation about indigenous ecological knowledge, indigenous rights and women’s issues . 

    Ally has been featured on the New York Times, African Geographic, Daily Telegraph, Sydney Herald and more.  She served as an advisor to the BBC Natural History Unit for a "Human Planet" series. 

    Ally first travelled solo to Papua New Guinea in 1997 at the age of 17, where she spent months living remote tribes. She crossed the Sepik River by canoe twice, trekked the Kokoda Trail, and became initiated into one of the Sepik tribes as well as into the Kosua tribe. Her first book describing her travels in Papua, “Touching Genesis”, was published in 2001.

    Ally is currently finishing her master degree in Development Studies and Global Health in the department of Anthropology, Macquarie University, Sydney. She’s working on her thesis entitled “Women at the End of the Land”, which will document her same-named solo expedition to Yamal Peninsula in Siberia in February 2016. The concept of this thesis is based on principles of visual anthropology and as such will integrate written theory, observational film and ethnographic photography. “Women at the End of the Land” expedition is part of the larger “Wild Born Project” within which Ally led several other solo expeditions to Papua New Guinea, Philippines and Namibia.

    www.alegraally.com

  • Kim Frank
    Project Manager, Writer / Editor
    Kim Frank is a writer and editor with an MFA from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers and an MSW in Social Policy and Practice from the University of Pennsylvania. Read More..
    Kim Frank
    Project Manager, Writer / Editor

    Kim Frank is a writer and editor with an MFA from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers and an MSW in Social Policy and Practice from the University of Pennsylvania. Her fiction and non-fiction is published in American Literary Review, Blackbird, Drunken Boat, Colorado Review, Shadowgraph, DuPont Registry, Sidetracked Adventure Travel Magazine, and monthly in SVPN magazine, where she is the managing editor. Kim was co-writer and editor for the short film, "Goddess of the Yangtze," a Columbia Gorge International Film Festival documentary pick. 
    Kim is 2014 Idaho Literature Fellow and the recipient of a 2013 UCross Artist Residency Fellowship.  

    Kim spent two decades as a change-maker founding and working for several non-profits that address children's issues. She was selected as 1 of 10 National Head Start Fellows for the US Department of Health and Human Services in 1999 and served as director and trainer for the US child advocacy organization, Stand for Children. Upon adopting her two daughters from China, Kim took some time off to be with her girls and eventually returned for a second masters degree to begin a second career as a writer and editor.

    Currently, she is working on a novel set in China, where she and her children have traveled extensively. Kim lives in Sun Valley, Idaho USA with her family and two dogs.

PROJECT ADVISORS

  • Greg Downey PhD
    Academic Advisor
    Greg is a teacher, writer, and anthropologist who has conducted field research in Brazil, the United States and the Pacific. Read More...
    Greg Downey PhD
    Academic Advisor

    Associate Professor in Anthropology, Macquarie University

    Greg is a teacher, writer, and anthropologist who has conducted field research in Brazil, the United States and the Pacific. He has advocated extensively for neuroanthropology — the integration of brain and cultural research to understand how humans induce variation in their own nervous system.

    As a teacher, Greg has helped to build Macquarie University’s strength in a range of areas, especially the teaching of human diversity, evolution, psychological variation, and human rights. In 2013, he was chosen for the Vice Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence, recognition for his teaching in the Department of Anthropology and his innovative online education (through Open2Study).

    http://gregdowney.me

  • Dr. Jessica Lansfield
    Field Coordinator
    Born and raised in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Jessica’s life and learning have been highly influenced by the north, the beauty of nature, and the exploration of the earth’s wide range of cultures, climates and conditions. Read More...
    Dr. Jessica Lansfield
    Field Coordinator

    Born and raised in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Jessica’s life and learning have been highly influenced by the north, the beauty of nature, and the exploration of the earth’s wide range of cultures, climates and conditions. In 2015, Jessica graduated with a doctorate from the University of Victoria’s innovative and research intensive Social Dimensions of Health program. Her transdisciplinary research filled gaps in the literature concerning the interconnections between social engagement, the social determinants of health, and the ecosystems perspective. During her studies, she also found that the arts play a role in democratizing engagement and exhibit the potential to mobilize social action and change. Now, Jessica is the Executive Director of The Jellyfish Project, an educational and environmental initiative that uses the power of music and live performances to connect youth to climate change realities and to encourage their active citizenship and environmental stewardship. Over the last two years, Jessica has also held the position of student representative for the Canadian Chapter of The Explorers Club, organizing events to support collaboration and connections between members and the community. In the field, her experiences range from searching for apex and meso-level predators in Clayoquot Sound with the Mesopredator Project, to humanitarian work with senior citizens in Jamaica with the former Canadian International Development Agency, to prospecting for fossils in the badlands of Alberta with Dr. Philip Currie, Dr. Eva Koppelhus and Clive Coy of the University of Alberta’s Dinosaur Lab and The Explorers Club, to captaining a raft down the Tatshenshini  and Alsek Rivers with members of the Alpine Club of Canada – Vancouver Island Section.  Jessica is honoured and humbled to be a part of the Wild Born Project.

     
  • PhDr. Jana Kubickova
    Field Nutrition advisor and Psychologicalmentor 
    Jana is a qualified Psychologist, Rayid Therapist and Naturopathic and Nutritional Counsellor who’s trying to help people find their own and unique holistic journey to health and happiness based on self-healing powers of body and soul. Read More...
    PhDr. Jana Kubickova
    Field Nutrition advisor and Psychologicalmentor 

    Jana is a qualified Psychologist, Rayid Therapist and Naturopathic and Nutritional Counsellor who’s trying to help people find their own and unique holistic journey to health and happiness based on self-healing powers of body and soul. Jana studied Clinical Psychology, Naturopathy as well as the Science of Religion with a focus on tribal cultures. She’s been specifically interested in cultural meaning of ancestors, transgenerational heritage and the power of collective identity. In 2010 she’s published the first book on Transgenerational healing of trauma in the Czech and Slovak Psychology: „Transgenerational transmission of the family trauma and the sources of its healing“. In 2010 she moved from Europe to Australia to study Naturopathy and work in the field of Holistic Medicine. Jana and her husband are also passionate travellers. They share their love for the oceans and freediving as well as for mountain hiking and visited some of the most remote places in the US, Europe, Australia, Pacific and Asia.

     
  • Inger Vandyke
    Photography advisor
    Professional Photojournalist and Expedition Leader Inger Vandyke has worked on some of the most isolated and remote parts of the world’s polar regions including Wrangel Island in Russia, the Canadian Arctic and on Heard and McDonald Islands in Antarctica. Read More...
    Inger Vandyke
    Photography advisor

    Professional Photojournalist and Expedition Leader Inger Vandyke has worked on some of the most isolated and remote parts of the world’s polar regions including Wrangel Island in Russia, the Canadian Arctic and on Heard and McDonald Islands in Antarctica.  Her work has been published widely by Ocean Geographic, Australian Geographic and the Royal Geographical society.  Through her expeditions in the Arctic, Antarctica and Tibet, she has learned the hard way how to deal with photographic challenges in the field including rapid battery discharge, camera gear malfunction, the physical constraints on photographers working in temperatures below -20C and surviving for extended periods without power in sub-zero temperatures.  She joins the Nenet Expedition with great enthusiasm and hopes to bring logistical and photographic expertise to the team of advisors appointed to the project.

PROJECT MANAGEMENT INTERNS

  • Katy Volpenhin
    Intern
    Katy Volpenhein is a 23-year-old living in Chicago, Illinois and working as an Account Executive for Oracle|Textura. Read More...
    Katy Volpenhin
    Intern

    Katy Volpenhein is a 23-year-old living in Chicago, Illinois and working as an Account Executive for Oracle|Textura. She is from Cincinnati, Ohio and attended college at the University of Cincinnati, graduating with a BBA in Business Marketing in May 2015. Katy spent her summers in college doing four separate internships gaining experience across many fields including public relations, journalism, media, marketing, client relations and sales. Her favorite and most passionate internship was the public relations and media work she did for Cooperative for Education, a nonprofit that brings education to indigenous tribes in Guatemala. She will be working on the project development side of the Wild Born Project and is very excited to share her skills to help bring this project to its full potential.

  • Kristi Kate
    Intern
    Kristi has a strong commitment to working with individuals and non-profit organisations within conflict zones and vanishing cultures. Read More..
    Kristi Kate
    Intern

    Kristi has a strong commitment to working with individuals and non-profit organisations within conflict zones and vanishing cultures. She has considerable experience travelling internationally and working alongside locals and multi-national individuals. Kristi is a passionate traveller and creative soul. Her background spans from working in the tech and creative industries to trekking through the tropical jungle and mist-covered mountains of Pohnpei, Micronesia. Kristi is truly an explorer at heart, who is driven by a deep desire to connect cross-culturally and use her skills to serve others.  Kristi moved from the UK to the Middle East and currently works as a professional labour support person (Doula) and Birth Photographer, empowering women throughout their birth journey, while creating a photographic collection of their personal experiences. She can be found wondering her local fresh food market or introducing her friends to the latest home-brewing coffee gadget. Those closest to Kristi describe her as - creative, authentic and (com)passionate. Kristi is truly honoured and excited to be a part of the Wild Born Project.

  • Amélie Foumena Nkodo
    Intern
    Amélie is a young researcher; she seeks to delineate and complicate the boundaries between the biological and the social. Read more..
    Amélie Foumena Nkodo
    Intern

    Amélie is a young researcher; she seeks to delineate and complicate the boundaries between the biological and the social. In particular her interests lie in the interdisciplinary space of applied health sciences, biocultural anthropology and natural history.

    Amélie is currently a MS candidate in Nutrition Science and Policy at the Tufts University Friedman School and she received a BA in Anthropology with a minor in Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies from the Johns Hopkins University. Her research and applied work is nurtured by a biopsychosocial approach to health. Amélie assists in the research and preparation for Wildborn expeditions.

  • Tamlin Abrahams
    NGO Development
    Born in South Africa during the last decade of apartheid, I grew up knowing the destruction that manmade laws and prejudice could create, and also the hope that there is for humanity when the vision for a better future for our children was chosen, above our personal greed and fears.
    Tamlin Abrahams
    NGO Development

    Born in South Africa during the last decade of apartheid, I grew up knowing the destruction that manmade laws and prejudice could create, and also the hope that there is for humanity when the vision for a better future for our children was chosen, above our personal greed and fears.

    My life partner and I both strive to create a life experience for our children that show them the greatest gift in life they have, is the gift of choice, of free will.

    With that, at every opportunity, we seek to know and understand why we make certain choices, to understand if it comes from cultural norms, or truly our hearts desires.

    Our son and daughter were both born at home, with only our midwife there with us. It was extremely empowering as a family to have had such intimate sacred experience, and know that the greatest gift was, the choice we had to have the experience we desired.

    Our experience allowed us to understand and know birth in its natural state, and my work with Operation Smile and in rural parts of Africa have brought a great respect for the need to integrate these more holistically.

    I am driven by a passion to understand our natural state of wholeness, and how to also integrate ancient wisdom with modern day sciences.

    I studied photography and focused on fine art and photojournalism. After my studies I spent nearly a year working and living in a remote part of Mozambique. It was there that I had my first experience of a woman birthing out in nature, no complications, and both mom and baby healthy and happy. It shifted my perspective on labor profoundly.
    During this time I also volunteered with Operation Smile as a photography volunteer, focusing on medical documentation and surgical outcome capturing.
    My love for the work grew and I joined as an employee in 2008, first as a Program Coordinator, then within Education and Trainings Programs and since 2014 as Regional Director for Southern Central and West Africa.

    I have a passion for working in teams where all aspects of individuals and communities are considered ensuring self-sustainable programs are designed and that there is a patient centered approach.

    There is tremendous power in sharing of knowledge across borders and cultural boundaries especially when this can be done in person working hand in hand, side by side.

    Most recently the work of Operation Smile has exposed me to work with and support women who have unfortunately due to labor complications developed an obstetric fistula.
    Understanding the need for well trained and equipped midwifes is vital in these communities and I have a strong passion to bridge the gap between community midwives and medical birthing facilities.

    I am qualified as Reiki Master, Quantum Touch Therapist, Training as Doula

  • Jacquelene Amoquandoh
    Jacquelene can best be described as curious. Her curiosity has led her from working back stage in the tents of Paris Fashion Week, to a solo camping trip in the great Serengeti. Read More..
    Jacquelene Amoquandoh

    Jacquelene can best be described as curious. Her curiosity has led her from working back stage in the tents of Paris Fashion Week, to a solo camping trip in the great Serengeti.  As a writer and storyteller she has always thought, there just has to be more! More to learn, more to see, more to do, eat, learn, more to question and more stories to tell. 

    For almost 2 years she lived and worked in Ghana with a wonderful child’s rights organization where she worked in writing and communications. It is a goal of hers to use her skills as a writer to tell stories that she believes are of great importance and the back bone to that is her passion for human rights. She got a lot of wonderful things out of this experience, one of them being her fabulous Ghanaian husband who she now lives with in the states with their new baby girl. 

    She believes the Wild Born Project will inform and empower women around the world and is so excited to be assisting with the writing and storytelling aspect of this project.

PROJECT SUPPORTERS

  • Genevieve Slonim
    Genevieve is a mother of 3, a Therapist with an M.A. in Psychology, and a certified Doula and Childbirth Educator. Read More...
    Genevieve Slonim
    Genevieve is a mother of 3, a Therapist with an M.A. in Psychology, and a certified Doula and Childbirth Educator . She is drawn to Narrative Therapy and its influence on epigenetics, DNA, ancestral wisdom and the power of storytelling to change neural pathways and release collective and individual trauma. She is the founder of BIRTH OF A MAMA,  a platform exploring the Rite of Passage of becoming a mother in the modern age, without the historic support of ones tribe, village or community of wise women elders. 
     

Sponsors

Special thanks goes to the wonderful people who supported the Kickstarter campaign. This Project could not happen without your support..

 

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