Yolngu have been using local plant fibres to weave everyday functional objects that serve their daily needs since pre-colonisation. This includes Bamagral (conical mats), Dhomala (canoe sails) and Git (skirts). Today the techniques used to create Bamagral, Dhomala and Git are applied to Mät’s (contemporary art objects).
Since the 1930’s Yolngu have adapted the conical shape of the Bamagral to make flat woven artworks that are appreciated for their high craftsmanship and aesthetic qualities. Each artist has an individual style and miy’tji (colours and designs). Woven Mät’s are often mounted as artworks on the wall but can also be enjoyed when placed on the floor for babies or adults to have direct contact with. Over time gunga becomes soft when it is in regular contact with skin.
Bamagral (conical mat’s) are worn by Yolngu as skirts as well as used to swaddle, cover and protect yothu (babies) while sleeping. When opened up into a dome the Bamagral is placed over a sleeping yothu, folded in half the it becomes a surface for yothu to rest on their stomach and play with the fringes. A Bamagral folded into quarters is used to swaddle and carry a yothu. Larger Bamagral are opened up and placed over girls during womens coming of age ceremony.
Git (skirts) are similar in shape and weave to Bamagral. They are made from gunga and are triangular however can not be opened into a dome. Git are tied around the waist of miyalks (women) with Bulgurr Raki (Kurrajong string).
It is unknown when exactly Yolngu began making Dhomala (sail’s) for their canoes however it is widely excepted that this innovation was inspired by the sail’s on the Macassan ships that would annually visit the Arnhem Land coast. Dhomala are made from gunga (pandanus) and Bulgurr Raki. Water vessels including canoes and rafts have an important role in Yolngu life as they ensure movement between islands and the mainland and are used for hunting.
Yolngu adapted their skills in making Bamagral ga Dhomala ga Git to making Mät in the late 20th Century. Today Mät are appreciated as contemporary artworks often displayed on walls and sometimes enjoyed as floor coverings.
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