Read in: French
It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Maningrida. Deborah, my neighbor and friend from across the corridor (without whom my stay in Maningrida would not have been as incredible), asked me if I would like to spend an afternoon with two of her friends, Joyce and Laura. They both practiced traditional aboriginal weaving, a technique handed down for generations in their families. They needed to gather Pandanus leaves, the main source material for their work. Deborah offered to take us in her 4×4, and I was lucky enough to take part in the expedition. We all got together, Joyce, Laura, little Karl, Deborah and myself, set out on an adventure in the neighboring woods of Maningrida.
After a little swim in a natural pool free of any killer crocodiles, I followed Laura around in the wild in search for Pandanus leaves. Laura showed me how she would cut the leaves, simply by taking the leaves at the end with a hooked pole that she would use to pull the leaf off with a dry and sudden movement. This wasn’t as easy as it sounds because Pandanus trees are very tall and their leaves are tightly attached to the trunk. Thanks to Laura, however, we gathered about a lot of these leaves and went back to the car heavily loaded, to a much welcomed snack after all the effort.
There, Laura began to prepare the leaves. She divided each of them in length as to get long thin strips. In the end, she was left with a handful of thin ribbons that she would roll together and take home with her. Later on, these fibers will be colored and woven into bags and baskets.
Laura also showed me how, from Palm leaves that we had also found, she could make a thin line. All she had to do was to peel the leaves into thin and flat strips. Then, she would toll two of these strips together by rubbing them against her legs and like magic, the fibers became one and a thin but tightly built rope appeared to my eyes.
At last, after the snacks, we went to look for the second essential element of our work : the dye. Here, the Dylon dye doesn’t exist, so we were going to have to look for… roots and leaves. It was truly a treasure hunt. In the area where we were, there were trees that allowed us to make yellow and red pigments. We worked following Joyce and Laura, who knew at first sight which plants to unearth. On the image on the right in the bottom, you can see the scarlet red color of the roots.
A few days afterwards, Joyce and Laura invited us over to take a look at their work. Deborah and I discovered, stunned, that a large number of little baskets and jewellery had been made out of material we had gathered together in the woods. They had used almost everything already! Next to all this, there were freshly dyed fibers of different colors. A little further away laid small pots with steam coming out of them. These pots were used to dye the fibers, by mixing them in boiling water with roots.
The sunset announced the day’s end and Deborah and I went back all amazed. Thank you Joyce, Laura, Karl and Deborah for such beautiful memories.