Marebu (pandanus mat)
This marebu is made from natural, local materials sourced from the Kakadu and Gunbalanya area. Weavers gather fresh young leaves from the pandanus palm using a hooked stick, then strip and dry them. The pandanus is then boiled up on the campfire with local plant dyes.
In the past they were used by women for many different purposes, including as work surfaces, as an aid in food preparation, and for ceremonial occasions.
The old plant dyes used in Europe like indigo, saffron, woad and logwood fell out of use with the Industrial Revolution. But here, a natural “paintbox” thrives.
The most common dyes include:
Yellow-orange: Mandjurndum (the bright orange roots of the Pognolobus reticulatus bush)
Brown: Wirdilwirdil (the red bulb of Haemadorum breviculae grass)
Green: The growing shoot of the pandanus itself (Pandanus spiralis), boiled with the ashes of pandanus leaves.
Purple-pink – Windilk (the seeds of the Haemodorum coccineum plant, related to Kangaroo Paw)
Grey-Black – Manbedde (the leaves of the quinine bush, Petalostigma pubescens)
Source: Louise Hamby (ed.) “Twined Together