Changing form

I’ve been back from Mäpuru for almost a week and have been feeling the pinch to get things ‘onto paper’. Where do I begin? 

My time there was different from others in the past in many ways. I nervously adopted my new mälk, Bilinydjan, and on more than one occasion encountered resistance to my new relationships with everything. Many of my young dhuway were now gurruŋ (poison cousins) and did not take to the idea of our close relationships becoming more distant. Neither was I. On reflection, this experience has given me a chance to learn about gurruṯu with a greater awareness of how it does affect being and relatedness. 

When I think of metaphors to describe my feelings of being in Mäpuru, I keep coming back to the lotus. Petals unfolding, going deeper and a brilliant center that I feel myself being drawn into.

End of each day and we were sitting with R under the weaving shelter, the sun hanging low on the horizon and the colours of the newly dyed pandanas glowing in the orange light. R kept on saying about our relationships, ‘Yonlŋu-Balanda, it’s like a world.’ I ponder these words, sometimes getting a glimpse of what R means… A world of connections? Everything exists there in the relationship? We were gurul’yun (going and seeing) R, wanting just to be with each other, weaving and talking. I had never heard of the word gurul’yun before M mentioned it. Can/does it describe being with? There is something here for me to go deeper into, a concept to unfold. 

The other weavers and I had some interesting conversations around the cooking fire. At one point, I asked the other women what they had woven into their baskets that day. Some interpreted the question literally, I was hinting at the metaphor. At times I was weaving a sadness and letting go into my mat (below). This did not go undetected by R, who would catch my eye and ask questions with her hands. In an emotional landscape, she sees everything. So, to respond to my sadness of letting go (goodbye Baŋaḏitjan) I wove a rainbow of colours into my mat. Slowly, I gained confidence in breaking out of one form and created another. Still transforming… What would our baskets look like if the emotional landscape into which we weave (the warp and the weft) were made visible? Can the Mäpuru women read us through the stories we tell in our weaving?

It surprises me that I still get shocked when the newly dyed pandanas appears on the line to dry or in a new bathi. I feel the colours, but find them hard to describe. Maybe they are pure joy and excitement. Is this how my friends at Mäpuru feel when the vibrancy is revealed from the flour pot boiling can? There is something generative about this practice that draws from so many elements around: the obvious materials like gunga and kala, but also the gurul’yun or being rrambaŋi (together) that speaks through the colours and forms.


I realise now, that somethings are more quickly unpacked when coming back from Mäpuru. The washing’s the easy bit!

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Filed under Life as Bilinydjan

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