Gaanyji (Shells) by Janine Mandijalu and Pauline Sampi

This is a collaborative design created by Pauline Sampi + Janine Mandijalu. Pauline is Janine’s mum’s first cousin; she’s a mum to Janine.

“This design is about all the Gaanyji (shells), on the reef when the tide goes out. The high tide come in, and when the tide goes out - when it gets really really low - all the shells are exposed. These are all the shells we find on the reef.

“The shells that we did - the sketching - they’re the type of food that we live off here, from the ocean; the reef. They’re more of a treat; we just get it when we feel like eating that!”

There’s the long one - Ngoolgna (trumpet shell). People eat this one.

The one that looks like the scallop shape - the big long one with four lines on its back. That’s a razor shell. We call it Rawol.

The triangle one is the trochus shell. That’s edible. Trochus shell was income for Bardi people in the early days. They’d go out and collect it when the tide was out; boil it; bring it back home to the campfire. Boil for 2-3 hours until the water turns green. Tip it over, and then hit the meat out with a piece of log - while it’s hot. The meat is a delicacy! Marinate it, pickle it, fry it up, make a curry. The old people out at Sunday Island (Iwanyi) would eat the meat, then trade the shell to the mission people, in exchange for food.

The trochus shells were used to make buttons - they sold it to the Italians for $5 a kilo- and then the remnants were crushed into powder then used for the polish on cars. We were the first community to have a license to sell Trochus shell. Nowadays they polish them up and sell them to tourists; or make jewellery out of it.

The one that looks like a coral - that’s the Laangi.

There’s also a pearl shell - looks like a scallop. People eat the pearl meat. There's lots of pearl farming around here. Bardi people used the pearl shell for traditional ceremony. They’d dress the men up with the pearl shell and only men were allowed to do that. They’d carve the pearl shell too, with red ochre.

Ambool - that’s a bailer shell - for carrying water and digging. The old people - when they used to walk long distance to water holes, they’d take a bailer shell (white person name). There’s a story to it. If the ambool was tipped upside down, it means it has water there - so people know they can dig a hole up and take water out of the hole. So when you’re finished, you leave the shell there to let others know there’s water there.

The other ones - we were just playing around with them!

“I cant wait to see this design on clothes. I reckon it would look good. I can't wait - I'm so excited. In person I think it will look so so good.” - Pauline

“I reckon this shell design will look amazing on clothes - really nice - awesome.” - Janine

This is a collaborative design created by Pauline Sampi + Janine Mandijalu. Pauline is Janine’s mum’s first cousin; she’s a mum to Janine.”


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