Senior weaver Helen Ganalmirriwuy’s woven gunga mat has a lustrous charcoal tone. The colour “Mul” (Black) is derived from a process involving fibres from an shrub that grows in the dry eucalyptus forests, it is harvested from Yurrwi and the homelands.
The singular use of black gunga is reserved for Ganalmirriwuy and her elder sister Margaret Rarru. 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.’ Over time, as their sisters, daughters and nieces have develop their skills and express their commitment to their craft, Rarru and Ganalmirriwuy pass on permission for them to the use the singular colour.
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.