Basket Weaving

Basket weaving

There is a long tradition of basket weaving amongst women from Arnhem land. The material used to make baskets come from plants. These include; pandanus, palms and selected bark fibres. These plants are woven and knotted into baskets, bags and mats. Another material used are leaves. They are stripped, dried and dyed with natural vegetable dyes, such as roots, leaves and berries). These leaves are dried again and woven into baskets, mats and dilly bags.

Women produce a range of products made from natural fibres. These include pandanus baskets, string bags and large floor-mats, made from palms and other plants. The women collect the raw materials. They strip and dry them. If the plants are to to be coloured; then the plant is boiled with the dyes. And then spinning or weaving can commence. The women achieve a range of colours from subtle to vivid, including purples, pinks, greys, green orange and brown. They were only able to begin dying the bags and baskets once metal containers became available for prolonged boiling of the fibres with roots, berries and leaves of certain plants. Pandanus weaving is seasonal. And are collected during the wet season until the mid-Dry season.

History of Basket Weaving

Missionaries introduced the weaving technique in the 1930’s. However, dilly bags are a very traditional Aboriginal product. These dilly bags are used in many ways. Remarkably, dilly bags can be seen in rock and bark paintings. These artefacts date back through the millennia. Apart from their use as food carriers, loosely woven bags were used to hold “cheeky yams” in fresh running water for days to leach them of toxins. Whereas, tightly woven bags are used to collect sugar bag (wild honey).

Occasionally, special bags were used in ceremonies. These bags were painted and sometimes decorated with feathers. One of the staples of the local diet are water birds such as magpie geese and brown duck. The pinfeathers of these and other more brightly coloured birds are woven into string bags after the meat has been consumed. The bags that incorporate feathers are often very beautiful and have an ethereal quality.

Want to find a basket of your own?

Our online store doesn’t display individual baskets. However there are many available in our gallery. Together with one of our art specialists we can help you find and purchase the right basket for you. If you would like to explore more of our authentic Aboriginal artefacts view our artefact page here.