Djerrh dja Karrbarda (Dilly Bag and Long Yam)

Don has painted Karrbarda (Long Yam) and a Djerrh (Dilly Bag). Djerrh is the Kunwinjku term for a traditional fibre bag. These have been made in Arnhem Land since long before there were collectors for them, and they are featured in rock art throughout the region. More specifically, conical baskets usually made from pandanus are known as bulbbe, while djerrh usually refers to a looped and knotted string bag. These are usually made from the inner bark of manbudbud, the kurrajong tree, manbornde, the banyan, or the leaves of marrabbi, the sand palm. Loosely twined baskets could be used to soak the toxins from cycad nuts or cheeky yams, while tightly twined ones were used to carry things such as bush honey. String bags carried possessions and food, such as Karrbarda (long yams). Women used to dig up long yams with kunbalkbu (digging sticks), but now they usually use kubba (“crow bars”, sticks fashioned from bits of metal). They go into the forest, to the places they know the yams will be, dig them up and cook them in the ashes of the fire. We still eat them, like we always used to. But the young girls today often don’t know how to recognise the leaves of the long yam, only the old women. Karrbarda is also the subject of a well known song cycle, still performed in Gunbalanya today.