Dilly Bags

Article | Updated 7 years ago

A selection of Dilly Bags from the June Colquhoun collection.
Dilly Bags
WA Museum

A selection of Dilly Bags from the June Colquhoun collection.

Dilly Bags
Image copyright WA Museum 

This collection features a number of traditional Dilly Bags produced by the Aboriginal people of Australia..  The bags are mainly designed and used by women to gather food and are most commonly found in the northern parts of Australia. While these bags have a variety of names depending on their place of origin, Dilly is thought to have originated from the Turrubal word dili.

Most Dilly Bags come in a simple oval shape with string attached for carrying, and many of the more traditional specimens such as those featured in this collection have little to no colouration. Other forms of Dilly Bag are flatter (much like a satchel) with a cord for slinging around the neck.

In recent times however, the production of Dilly bags has become a centerpiece for weaving artistry. Taking on new designs, colours, and forms while retaining traditional weaving techniques, the bags have become important objects for cultural expression. For certain skilled workers, the majority of which are women, Dilly Bag basketry has entered the realm of fine art.

Further Reading

Dixon, R.M.W., Moore, B. & Ramson, W. S.; Thomas, Mandy (2006). Australian Aboriginal Words in English: Their Origin and Meaning (2nd ed. ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Carew, M. & Hughes, A. (1995). Maningrida: The Language of Weaving. Australian Exhibitions Touring Agency. Melbourne, Australia.