Yolŋu have been using local plant fibres to weave everyday functional objects since pre-colonisation. This includes Bamagral (conical mats), Dhomala (canoe sails) and Get (skirts).
Bamagral (conical mat’s) are worn by Yolŋu as skirts as well as used to swaddle, cover and protect yothu (babies). When opened up into a dome the Bamagral is placed over a sleeping yothu, folded in half 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.
Some Get (skirt) are made in a similar shape and weave to Bamagral. They are made from gunga and are triangular however can not be opened into a dome. This type of Get is tied around the waist of miyalks (women) with Bulgurr Raki (Kurrajong string).
Another style of Get can be made from the inner bark of the Bulgurr tree. The artists attaches stripes of Bulgurr fibre to Bulgurr Raki, the Raki is tied around the waist and stripes of Balgurr hang down. This style is worn by children during ceremony.
It is unknown when exactly Yolŋu 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 or Djan’pa (native fig root) Raki. Water vessels including canoes and rafts have an important role in Yolŋu life as they ensure movement between islands and the mainland and are used for hunting.
Yolŋu adapted their skills in making Bamagral ga Dhomala ga Get to make 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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