Mandjabu and Walabi (Fish traps)

In the old days, people used banyan root fibres and kurrajong bark fibres to make string for fish traps. The framework of the conical trap was made with thicker bush cane, such as Flagellaria indica (known as karrawukka, midjakkorr or bardedde). The mouth of the fish trap was made with inward-facing canes, so fish could push in but not escape again. The traps could be up to several meters long. Often a fence would be constructed across a creek, with the trap in the center to force the fish in. Pieces of yam might also be placed in the trap to entice fish. They could be left out overnight or for a couple of days. When people brought the trap in, the conical end could simply be untied and the fish distributed.

Manbu mandjabu korroko dabborrabbolk birrimangi kunyarl kore manbornde mandedjmad kunyarl dja kore kundulk manbudbud kunyarl. Wanjh birribokdengi kunyal birrimarnbuni wanjh mandjabu birrimarnbuni. Birridjuhkeyi kore kukku wanjh djenj kumrey ngimerreni kore mandjabu wanjh birrimangi nawern djenj.

In the old days walabi (fishing nets) were used to catch djenj (fish) in the creeks, channels and river mouths of Western Arnhem Land. The mesh of the nets is woven and knotted from ‘bush string’ made from different plants such as mankulurrudj (sand palm), manburnde (banyan) roots or manbudbud (kurrajong) bark. Bush cane is then used to hold the nets in place.

These small fishing nets were used to catch little aquatic creatures such as namarddakka (nail fish) and wakih (freshwater shrimp). Old ladies remember as children they would splash the water so the fish would move towards the trap and could be scooped up with the walabi.