Helen Ganalmirriwuy ✿ The magnificent gunga mat


19 November 2019

Our November laurel is bestowed on Helen Ganalmirriwuy, who has produced a magnificent mat from gunga (pandanus). She shares the excitement of seeing this work grow over the month of weaving.

Helen Ganalmirriwuy is a Liyagawumirr Garrawarra woman of East Arnhem Land in the far north of Australia. Helen Ganalmirriwuy was born in Galiwin’ku (Elcho Island) and grew up on Langarra. She has seven fathers from Garriyak which is on the mainland south of Galiwin’ku. Helen’s art works reflect gandjarrmirr miny’tji (the power of colour). She weaves daily with her sisters, including Margaret Rarru. The sisters are continually finding new ways of weaving native fibres into mindirr ga bathi (dilly bags and baskets), mät (2D artworks), handbags, hats and large scale sculptures.

The mat by Helen Ganalmirriwuy was made for an exhibition Pandanus Noir at RAFT artspace, Alice Springs. According to Rosie Holmes, director of Milingimbi Art and Culture, “It was woven over the the wet 2018/19 session at Ganalmirriwuy’s mother’s homeland of Langarra, where she lives with her sisters and their families.Ganalmirriwuy enjoys working from Langarra as she can access an abundance of native foods including fish, mussels, sting ray, native yams and plums. There is also an abundance of native weaving material to be collected and transformed into artworks. The life style and quiet atmosphere of Langarra, like all homelands, supports Ganalmirriwuy and her sisters to live a life centred around their art practice and traditional food harvesting rhythms.”

Helen Ganalmirriwuy

Helen Ganalmirriwuy herself describes the process of making the gunga mat:

First I plan what I will make.Then I’m going out collecting gunga (pandanus) and colour – roots of guninyin (morinda citrifolia) and ashes.

Before I start weaving I am thinking about the colour and how to make it latju(beautiful).

I peel the gunga and add it to the pot over the fire – from white it comes yellowthen to red. Now I can sit and start to weave. Maybe I will make a yindi (big) one I think to myself.Everyday starting in the morning and keep going into the night. My mind stays interested as I see the weaving grow. I keep looking at it until I say, ok now this one is right – finished now.

We recommend you watch Gunga’puy Dhäwu, a short film featuring Helen Ganalmirriwuy sharing the processes of harvesting, preparing, dying and weaving her international celebrated artworks. The second half of the film features Wilson Manydjarri and his son Jacob Ganamburr on Yidaki performing a section of a songline that relates directly to weaving.

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