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Dilly bags made from sand palm fibres

A good example of innovation by Aboriginal artists is warrgadi (dilly bags).

These bags, made from fibres from the Merrepen palm tree, derive from old local knowledge of a complicated and laborious looping technique handed down from mother to daughter. The bags, originally used to carry bush food, are now sold as craft objects, and their makers are experimenting with the shape, colour and size of the bags.

The dilly bags displayed are made of fibres from the Merrepen, also known as the sand palm or fan palm because of the characteristic fan-like shape of its leaves. New shoots are pulled from the crown of the palm tree before the leaves unfold. Thin fibres are gently pulled from the sides of the palm leaves before being dried and dyed.

Red ochre was the dye traditionally used by Aborigines. The ochre was ground up and mixed with water in the palm of the hand. As this was extremely time-consuming, bags were generally left uncoloured.

Today, artists are experimenting with natural dyes made from roots, seeds and bark, producing colours such as yellow, orange, red, green, brown, and purple. These dyes can be used now that Aborigines have metal containers in which to boil up the fibres and dyestuffs. Thread is made by rolling the fibres together on the thigh, and a special looping technique is used to make the bag. Dilly bags are carried with the strap across the forehead and the bag hanging down the back so as to leave the hands free to gather bush tucker. The same looping technique was used to make nets used to catch small fish and prawns in water holes or shallow parts of a river.

This exhibition contains a dilly bag from Nauiyu made in 2007, and two dilly bags that were acquired by the museum in 1895 and 1950. The older bags were made using the same looping technique and are made from the same fibre as the 2007 bag but are not coloured.

Bildet kan inneholde: gul, bag, wicker, veske, skulderveske.
Dilly-bag made by Kitty Kamarrama. 
Bildet kan inneholde: hekle, brun, bag.
Dilly-bag from the  Museum of Cultural History´s Collection. 1950.
Bildet kan inneholde: bag, veske, hobo bag, brun, så.
Dilly-bag from the  Museum of Cultural History´s Collection.. 1895.

Making dilly bags

The TV screen shows a nine-minute film in which Molly Yawalminy and her mother Mercia Wawul describe the various steps in making a dilly bag. They are proud of their traditional knowledge, which has been passed on from generation to generation, and which they now share with all those who admire and purchase the bags as craft objects.

Published Mar. 31, 2020 2:36 PM - Last modified Dec. 14, 2020 8:58 AM