Helen Ganalmirriwuy and her elder sister Margaret Rarru are known for their Mul Mindirr (black dilly bags). The singular use of black pandanus is reserved for Rarru and Ganalmirriwuy. Over time, as their sisters, daughters and nieces develop their skills and express their commitment to their craft Rarru and Ganalmirriwuy will pass on the use of this colour.
This specific piece is a variation of the artists iconic Mul Mindirr. Ganalmirriwuy has used a coil technique to create this oblong form with raki (string) handles, intentionally selecting several shades of black dyed pandanus to create a subtly striped bag.
Fibre – Gunga (pandanus spiralis) and Bulgurr (kurrajong)
Gunga belongs to the Dhuwa moiety and grows throughout east Arnhem Land in woodlands and sand dunes. The central growing spike of leaves is harvested from the crown and processed for weaving. The leaf is folded in half length ways and the fine serrated edges and central spin are removed. This is done by running a fingernail or sharp needle down each side of the folded leaf. This action creates two pieces that are then peeled by pulling their front and back away from each other to expose the inner membrane of the leaf. Harvested from Yurrwi and associate Homelands.
Bulgurr – is a plant with multiple uses in Yolngu culture. To make string the tree is cut down using an axe or machete. The outer bark of then beaten with the blunt end of the axe until it can be peeled away from the inner core. The fibre that sits beneath the outer bark is then peeled away, it is this fibre that is dried and spun into string on the inner thigh of the artists leg. Creating a tight twin and consistent gage is a skill developed over time with much practice. Harvested from Yurrwi and associated Homelands.
The black colour is derived from a native shrub that grows in the dry eucalyptus forests. When asked Ganalmirriwuy and Rarru do not share verbally how to create the recipe for their Mul (black dye), instead they reply, ‘maybe you will sit us one day and you will learn.’