Margaret Gamuti is a senior Ŋaymil woman and an experienced weaver of both everyday and ceremonial objects. Gamuti’s country lies further east between Elcho Island and Gapuwiyak at Gunda’mirri, but she was born and raised on her kin country at Milingimbi.
Gamuti tells the story of when her father, Richard Muḻuyuḻk first moved to Milingimbi as a child before WWII, travelling by lipalipa (dugout canoe) from nearby Gatji on the mainland.
Gamuti’s ŋathi (father’s father) was Harry Makarrwalla, a renown warrior, artist and ceremonial leader. Makarrwalla was a close friend and consultant for Lloyd Warner, the first anthropologist to spend considerable time working with Yolŋu while he was based at the Methodist mission in Milingimibi in the late 1920’s. Many international museums and galleries, including the National Museum of Australia, Art Gallery of WA and the Peabody Museum at Harvard University, hold works by Makarrwalla.
Gamuti says she learnt most from her ŋäṉḏi (mother), alongside other close kin like her märi (mother’s mother). Her mother Bella first taught her to weave under the solitary Tamarind tree that still stands by the tidal flats near where the Milingimbi school is located today. Gamuti explains she would watch her mother weave from a young age, and from about the age of 12 was encouraged to try herself. She began with helping her mother processing the pandanus strands and then later took to weaving. She remembers weaving two ŋaṉbarra (conical woman’s mats) around this time.
As an adult Gamuti worked closely with several Balanda (whitefella) educators, such as Alan Fidock, David Macleay and Michael Christie, where she learnt both English and Yolŋu literacy. This was during a time when the Milingimibi school was pioneering a strong bi-lingual and Two Ways curriculum. To this day Gamuti is known for her skills in Yolŋu spelling and translation.
Gamuti is now a senior weaver at Milingimbi Arts and Culture and mentors other junior weavers in the specialised craft of harvesting, processing, dyeing and weaving both everyday and ceremonial objects. She says when she weaves she still thinks of her mother and how these works connect her to her ancestors