Joy Wilfred

Joy Wilfred — 'Yir (Dilly Bag) II'


Nanja literally translates to nets in Nunggubuyu language. However, these days nanja mainly refers to introduced marine debris - discarded fishing nets, shade cloth, nautical rope and other cast-off materials that plague ocean and river sources. Numburidni people first noticed nanja washing up on the beaches of Numbulwar in the 1980s. Today, these synthetic invaders are a daily reality, building up in the Gulf of Carpentaria, threatening marine life and disrupting traditional ways of living. Yet from this adversity, a unique form of expression has emerged. 

Numburindi people have used dilly bags for thousand of years for practical and ceremonial purposes, but not until recently were they produced from repurposed ghost nets and shade cloth fabric. Dilly bags, or yir in Nunggubuyu language, are customarily made from pandanus or bark fibers, and dyed or painted with shades of ochre. 


"Every time when them ladies do ghost net bag, nanja, they think about the olden days, how they were making string bag. Like old way and new way, together. We like working old way and new way."

Rose Wilfred. 


Numbulwar Numburindi Arts x Craft

June 20 – July 27

Craft has partnered with Numbulwar Numburindi Arts to present the works from the four Wildred sisters - Joy, Jocelyn, Megan and Virginia - who are known as the Wagilak sisters. In a Dhuwa story told in Ritharrngu language in central Arnhem Land, the Wagilak Sisters are Creation Sisters. The sisters each have their own dilly bags that contain all their powers, holding sacred ornaments and power objects that they use to create the landscape. Through their stewardship, the landscape becomes lush and beautiful. The sisters are keepers and teachers of the law.

Joy Wilfred / Jocelyn Wilfred / Megan Wilfred / Virginia Wilfred 

"Ngilipitji is my Country, that's where I grew up. From Ngilipitji we went to Walker River, walking on foot. My language is Yolngu Matha. My clan is Wagilak on my father's side, Ritharrngu on my mother's side. My totems are wild honey and black crow".

Joy Wilfred is a Ritharrngu artist who lives and works with her sisters and niece in Numbulwar. Joy's artistic practice is heavily influences by her grandmother, who took her out bush to harvest and peel pandanus for 'wulbung' (basket) weaving, and to dig and prepare dye materials to colour the pandanus. Joy is renowned for her tireless work ethic, weaving at all hours of the day and through the night. 

Primarily using traditional pandanus techniques for her 'wulbung' (baskets), epic pandanus mats and dilly bags, Joy is know to experiment with ghost nets and shade cloth for another form of bag know as 'yir', using acrylics to paint culturally significant designs. 

The Wilfred sisters replicate traditional dilly bags with found contemporary materials like 'nanja' to tell a contemporary narrative about the environmental deterioration of their homelands, but also the responsibility that befalls custodians in making Country beautiful again. Brightly colours acrylics replace ochre stripes for clan identification and individual expression.

Read about the exhibition.

Material: Ghost net, plastic trellis and twine

Dimensions:  97 x 51cm

Cat. no: 391-22

1 piece in stock.

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