Pandanus at Kakadu National Park
While we were travelling near and through Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory, an inescapable part of much of the landscape was the pandanus palms, which grew in enormous groves in various places throughout the park, as demonstrated by this blurry photo taken from a moving bus:
The pandanus palms fascinated me, not because of their attractiveness in situ, but because the Aboriginal women could take the leaves, strip them down and make dilly bags for carrying food and beautiful woven craft items. Here is an example of a dilly bag on display at the Bowali Visitor Centre:
This is all the more surprising because the pandanus palm leaves are very tough and spiky on three sides, so it is no mean feat to reduce them into a weavable fibre:
As well as using the fibres to make dilly bags (and colourful crafts for tourists like me), the Aborigines used the pandanus palm for medicine, and they ate the pandanus fruit and seeds. Here are some bright orange cones which grow in clusters to form the pandanus fruit:
I was fascinated by the crafts made from pandanus fibres by Aboriginal women. There were many examples of earrings, baskets and mats made from pandanus fibres by the Aboriginal women for sale throughout the Territory - for some great examples, see the photos at the top of this post from the Marrawuddi Gallery shop at the Bowali Visitor Centre in Kakadu, and this photo from NT Tourism displayed on a shop front in Darwin:
These craft items are labour intensive and take a long time to make, which is reflected in their price. You can purchase pandanus craft items both in their undyed state (hence they are the colour of dried grass), or dyed with naturally derived colours.
I was intrigued by the beautiful colours of the baskets and mats on sale, and purchased this lovely mat from the Marrawuddi Gallery by Aboriginal artist Ruth Gamarrawu:
If you visit the Territory, look out for the pandanus palms and the wonderful crafts made from the leaves of this prickly customer.