Re Suga Thari
[It takes a midwife to birth a new world ]

In Setswana, the word thari has several meanings. One refers to the ability to conceive, the other refers to a goat skin which is specially skinned and prepared to be used as a sling after a baby is born. If used in a phrase “bana ba thari” this can be used by people belonging to the same family, clan, community, or race. For example, “bana ba thari e ntsho” is used to refer to the black race.

From the indigenous African point of view, childbirth is not just a biological event that requires medical attention. Prior to colonisation and subsequent medicalisation of childbirth, pregnancy, labour, and postpartum period were regarded as sacred rites of passage celebrated by a series of rituals that were meant to strengthen, protect, and celebrate the mother and the baby.

Unlike biomedical model of birth, indigenous midwifery perceives birthing as a bio-social, cultural, and spiritual event that works in harmony with the body’s innate ability to give birth. By positioning birth as a wholistic phenomenon, health of the mother and the child is therefore inseparable from health of the entire ecosystem.

Building on the ancient African adage that it takes a village to raise a child, Afrika Ikalafe expands this view to include the role of the Indigenous midwife as a custodian of ancient knowledge about pregnancy and birth as a sacred rite of passage for the mother. Using a decolonised and holistic model of health, we believe that a marriage between a biomedical and indigenous models of birthing can result in positive physical, psychological, cultural, and spiritual birth outcome.


indigenous midwifery perceives birthing as a bio-social, cultural, and spiritual event

Many birthing persons are subjected to obstetric violence i.e., violence during childbirth. Research shows that trauma experienced at birth can harm the mother and the baby. For instance, going through traumatic birth experience with no support can affect the mother-baby bonding. As our elders used to say, a breastfeeding mother must be supported to ensure that she does not feed the baby with breastmilk that is laced with pain. In our quest to heal birth traumas which can be physical, psychological, or spiritual, Afrika Ikalafe, offers pyscho-spiritual counseling for pregnant persons and post-partum mothers.

The aim is to support a pregnant woman or post-partum mother in what is regarded as an important and sacred rite of passage. Rather than just focusing on health as defined by western medicine, we integrate Indigenous customs about pregnancy and childbirth. This includes cultural handling of the placenta and the baby’s umbilical cord and other rituals that are related to childbirth. This is offered by Mmatshilo Motsei, a qualified biomedical midwife and spiritual health coach who is currently being initiated in Indigenous birthing practices.

with Mmatshilo Motsei