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The contemporary weaving of Girramay artist Abe Muriata are known as jarwun. Queensland’s most complex bio-region, the northern rainforests that stretch from Cairns south to Cardwell, and from the coast up into the hinterland ranges, also saw the creation of one of the world’s most specialised and technically complex baskets: the magnificent bicornual jawun was used for fishing, leaching, gathering and even, with very large examples, for carrying infants, in dense linked settlements along the rainforest trails. Made from stiff spiny lawyer cane (Calamus caryotoides), the jawun featured in every aspect of life, from everyday uses to exchanges of elaborate ochred versions as ceremonial gifts. The jawun is an astonishing feat of engineering and exceptionally beautiful.1
1 Julie Ewington, Working in the river: baskets of the rainforest, pp.158–63, and Trish Johnson, Jawun: an interview with Desley Henry, pp.166-69, in Story Place: Indigenous Art of Cape York and the Rainforest [exhibition catalogue], Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 2003.
Abe Muriata The eminent maker of these baskets is Abe Muriata, a strong and proud Rainforest Bama of the Girramay people. In the period of pre and early contact between colonists and the rainforest peoples of North and Far North Queensland, men were often the primary basket makers across various language groups, while in others the skill and duties of basket making were shared equally between men and women. Sometime after contact with European social norms, weaving and basketry became ‘women’s work’. Abe follows in the footsteps of other men from the Girringun region who have continued to make these traditional forms and continues to assert that basket weaving is men’s business.