The conical dilly bag form is common across Arnhem Land. Bathi vary in shape, size and miy’tji (clan design) depending on there specific use; collecting natha (food), carrying personal items or for ceremony. Up until recently bathi were either plain (with no added colour) or painted with ochre. The development of dying fibres using natural pigments was introduced by missionaries and has been widely practiced in Yurrwi since the 1940’s.
Black pandanus is made using organic native materials harvested from Yurrwi and nearby islands. In Yolngu culture miy’tji (clan designs and colours) have a long history of being owned by specific peoples and clans. Each clans Miy’tji was prescribed during creation and is intertwined with complex law and ceremony. In more recent history, clans took ownership of colours as a result of generations of contact with traders from Indonesia; specific coloured cloth was given to different clans by the Makassan’s. This practice helped the visitors to easily identify which clan they were approaching as they came to shore. Today identity, design and colour continue to be entwined.
Margaret Rarru and Helen Ganalmirriwuy are known for their Bathi Mul (black dilly bags). The singular use of black pandanus is reserved for Rarru and Ganalmirriwuy. Over time, as their sisters, daughters and nieces develop their skills and express their commitment to their craft Rarru and Ganalmirriwuy will pass on the use of this colour.