Djamo (dog) by Vera Cameron

Djamo (dog)

The djamo (dog) holds special mythological as well as practical significance for people of Central Arnhem land, particularly women. The men used to go hunting with a spear and the women with a dog. If the men didn’t catch a kangaroo, the women would catch a goanna. If neither caught anything, then they could catch fish. If there was neither kangaroo nor goanna, then they would eat sugarbag. This is how it was long ago – sugarbag, lily root, yam, goanna, sand goanna, fish and more were part of the regular diet. “Don’t forget that long ago we didn’t know European food, we knew bush food. We used to grow from bush food.” Rembarrnga women have literally and metaphorically brought together strands from their country and the mythology of their heritage to produce three dimensional fibre creatures filled with mystical significance. Dog, mermaid, rainbow serpent, blue tongue and fish multiplication spirits: each creature plays an important role in the clan’s cultural landscape. Materials for this camp dog comes from the clan estate. Dayarr (pandanus) and rulk (grass) are the twines used for the creature’s bodies. Warlppurrunggu (bush turkey) and nganarrngh (black cockatoo) feathers provide bulkkan-na (hair). Marnarr (red), gamununggu (white), garlba (yellow) ochres and roerroe (black) ashes are then carefully mixed and applied for colour. The use of local materials provides an integral link between the mythological nature of the creatures, which inhabit the country and their physical form.

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