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

    Alegra Ally is ethnographer and award-winning explorer and photographer, best known for her in-depth work focusing on indigenous women. Her ability to produce photographs with profound emotional resonance and sensitivity earned her the Scott Pearlman Field Award for her expedition: ‘Women at the End of the Land’ in 2016 and dozens of other international awards both from the photography and exploration communities.  

    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’s photography is featured in several publications. The New York Times, Huffington Post, The Walt Disney Company, Maptia, Ocean Geographic, Sidetracked and more. 

    She serves as a member in the Flag and Honours Committee of The Explorers Club

    Recently she was invited to serve as an advisor to the BBC Natural History Unit for a "Human Planet" series. As an internationally recognised speaker Ally was invited to present the Wild Born Project in several midwifery organisations, including midwifery departments at various hospitals, photography schools and the Explorers Club Headquarters. 

    Ally is currently writing her theses as pert for her Masters Of Research degree with focus on Anthropology at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.

    She lives in Sydney with her husband Erez Beatus and is expecting her first child.

    Together, they operate Freediving Holidays, leading expeditions to Hawaii, Mexico and Tonga

    WOMEN AT THE END OF THE LAND: THE BOOK

    A close collaboration with writer Kim Frank, this photography book will share a rich and detailed glimpse into Lena’s birth journey, as well as explore Alegra’s experiences documenting the Nenets’ daily lives at a time of great change in their history, when rapid climate change and industrial development pose a significant threat to their unique way of life.

    The expedition to Siberia raised more then 30,000 dollars with Kickstarter, and ranked as one of Kickstarter most favourite photographic projects. The expedition was also awarded with the prestige Flag by the Explorers Club.

     

PROJECT ADVISORS

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

  • Ph.D 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...
    Ph.D 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.

     
  • Ph.D 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...
    Ph.D 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

  • 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.

  • 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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