Fabrianne explains her painting about the Wangunu: Bush Damper Dreaming.
The women go out into the bush and prop their coolamons against the wild Wangunu (Eragrostis eriopoda). They bend the stems over the side of their coolamon and strip off the husks. They rub the husks between their hands over the coolamon until the husks have been stripped. They then grab handfuls of the grassy grains, hold them high and let them fall between their fingers. The seeds fall into the coolamon and the grassy casings fly away in the wind.* Fabrianne likes the feeling of the seeds in coolamons and dilly bags flowing around her fingers as they feel really soft.
There will still be ‘grassy’ parts left in the seeds, so, to separate those they shake and shift the coolamon and wipe away the chaff until there are only the seeds left.
They take the seeds and place them onto a big flat stone. The coolamon is placed half under the stone and half sticking out one end. Using a grinding stone they grind the seeds on the big flat stone and the flour falls into the coolamon. They pour small handfuls of water into the flour bit by bit and work it into a soft mixture. The dough rises as they worked it.
They push aside the flames of the camp fire to expose the hot sand below. They place the dough onto the sand, take a flaming stick of fire and hold it on the top of the dough. This tightens the dough and seals the top. They then cover the whole dough with ashes and cook it into bush damper. After a while, they uncover it and share it with the whole family.
In Fabrianne’s paintings she is depicting the seeds.
* This method is called wind winnowing – a method developed by ancient cultures for separating grain from chaff. In its simplest form it involves throwing the mixture into the air so that the wind blows away the lighter chaff, while the heavier grains fall back down for recovery.