Weaving journey to Arnhem Land 2016
‘Gunbalanya welcomes you’ the sign reads. As we drive into the remote Indigenous community in west Arnhem Land, I can feel the welcoming spirit of the land. My family is waiting there… Adopted family, spirit family – Priscilla, Sylvia, Merrill, Lorraine… Christine is still in Darwin. They’re waiting for us to arrive so we can begin our journey together.
Wet season has just ended, the pandanus is lush and the ground is soft and springy with latent growth. Perfect for harvesting fibre and digging up dye plants: yellow, brown, orange. Stripping, stripping – stripping pandanus leaf fibre, not clothes! (even though it’s hot enough😊). Sitting under the shade of a paperbark tree, we work together, sometimes in contemplative silence, sometimes with bouts of laughter and advice from our weaving mentors.
As the dye pots bubble, so the fire sizzles with the preparation of a surprise lunchtime snack – a long-necked turtle from Lorraine’s mother in stone country. Yum! Tastes like chicken! Haha… Chewy chicken. Eating an unlaid turtle egg is a bit strange though…
A big crocodile lurks in the waters of the nearby rock hole, somewhere… Or so the rumour goes… but nobody (including me) is keen to test the story out… ‘GINGA! (croc) You kids stay close!’ is the call to the younger members of our crew.
Travelling in flow with the universe means that we are open to unexpected delights, like a visit to the Pandanus Man spirit – first in his manifestation as an ancient rock painting, then in his form in physical reality – a ‘flat-one’ pandanus plant. Notice his six fingers which indicate he is a cheeky spirit – pregnant mums and small kids must avert their haze for fear of young minds being stolen.
Three- legged dog dreaming rock was another unexpected sight to behold. Perched on (yes) three legs, the rock towers above us, holding space for the dreaming ancestor female dog who broke her leg and couldn’t continue on her journey through the landscape to find water.
Fun and humour travelled with us in the bus, chuckling with mirth as we told stories and shared memories. Snakes crossed our path, brolgas browsed, wild pigs grunted, brumbies galloped by: all in the space of a moment in infinite time. Spirit crossed the country alongside us, guiding and guarding.
It was a lifetime too soon when our days in this land came to an end. Hearts filled with warmth and glow, minds silent in contemplative awe, we made our way back to our everyday lives, infinitely richer for being given time our spirit family of wonderful weaving women, in this place and space of healing.
The next journey is from 15 – 20 July 2016, the last of the year. Join us if you feel the calling.