• 17. Mandjabu
  • 17. Mandjabu
  • 17. Mandjabu

J. Wurrkidj (dec)

17. Mandjabu

Regular price   

"In old times people would make these mandjabu (fish traps) to go fishing. They are made with vine we find in the jungle. That old man, Anchor [Gulunba], he showed me how to make these fish traps. I would sit there and watch him making them. We catch barramundi, catfish, all kinds of fish" - Helen Lanyinwanga


  • Fibre-tipped pen on paper, framed by Don Whyte
  • Dimensions: 82cm x 82cm
  • Cat No. 295a-22

Kuninjku people traditionally make two sorts of conical fish traps. One is called mandjabu and is made from a strong, durable vine called milil, and a smaller one is called manylik mandjabu, and made from the grass manylik. The mandjabuconical fish trap is bigger and stronger and used in tidal reaches of creeks to catch large fish. The smaller, lighter manyliktrap is used in freshwater flowing creeks to catch smaller fish and freshwater prawns.

In earlier times, only men were involved in the construction of the large fish traps, but children would often crawl inside and assist. To make mandjabu, weavers firstly harvest milil (burney vine, Malaisia scandens) and put it in water overnight to make it soft. Then they start weaving it; they make rings for the inside to keep the fish trap’s shape. People also make string from the bark of burdaga (kurrajong) to attach the bardainy (hibiscus) rings and to tie the conical end of the fish trap. It’s hard work and it can take three or four weeks to make a fish trap.

People also use fish-net fences called kunkarlewabe. They would put the kunkarlewabe across rivers and creeks. In the middle they would place the mandjabu. They also used small things like sticks, rocks, mud and grass to block the fish from going through. This way we would catch fish such as saltwater barramundi rajarra, ngaldadmurrng (freshwater barramundi), small black freshwater catfish (buliya), bonefish (an-guwirrpiya), and sand bass (dalakan) in the mandjabu.

J. Wurrkidj (dec) was a highly regarded textile artist who started working at Bábbarra Women’s Centre in 2007. Her print designs featured local bush foods and food-collecting devices such as kunmadj (dilly bag), mandjabu (fish trap) whilst also referencing the activities of ancestor beings and the ceremonial sites of her homeland, Mumeka. J.Wurrkidj also created artwork for Maningrida Arts and Culture alongside other members of her family who were also accomplished artists: her mother, H. Lanyinwanga (Dec), sister Deborah Wurrkidj and daughter Abigail Namundja.

She was the daughter of Australia’s most highly acclaimed bark painter, John Mawurndjul, and renowned, in her own right for her bark paintings, hollow logs and carved sculptures. Her artwork has been exhibited throughout Australia and her textile works are in the collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia, CDU, Bendigo Art Gallery, National Museum of Australia and has been touring internationally with Jarracharra (dry season wind) since 2019. In her later years she focused her arts practice on mentoring her daughter Abigail Namundja who printed her lino designs in her capacity as an arts worker at Bábbarra Women’s Centre.

Bábbarra Women’s Centre works with women who from more than 12 language groups in the Maningrida region who come together to share knowledge and ideas. The group's main social enterprise, Bábbarra Designs, has been going strong since 1989, designing and hand-printed exquisite textiles that are sold around the world. Each length of fabric is unique and tells the ancestral stories of Arnhem Land country and cultures. "People tell us our designs are bold and elegant, but for us they are more than designs: these designs tell the stories of our lives. They bring a lot of joy to everyone – to us, our families and our customers alike. Working creatively with Bábbarra Designs is a way for us to achieve financial independence, for our community and the next generations."

Best efforts are made to get your purchase on its way within 2 business days. Postage from Darwin can be slow so please bear with us! 

All works are packed securely to protect during shipping. All items valued over $100 are insured for damage during transit. 

If you are purchasing multiple works, please email us for custom shipping rates. 

Items purchased online that are part of an exhibition will be shipped at the end of the exhibition period.