Wubbunj (Paperbark Canoe) by Raylene Bonson

Wubbunj (Paperbark Canoe)

“Wubbunj is our traditional canoe. This design is the old history story of how people came to live in this place we call Maningrida. Two old people were staying on the other side of the saltwater, in Narlarrambarr area. The old people slept in a paper bark shelter and hunted on the water using their canoe.

A long time ago our people carved these canoes from the big paperbark trees. They had paddles with one person at the front, one at back, and other kids and passengers in the middle. Kunkot (paper bark) was used to make the sails which they would stand up and catch the wind.

One day these old people saw a new boat in their waters, which belonged to the Makassans (Indonesians). Those two old men saw the big Makassan boat coming in, and decided to paddle their canoe from Narlarrambarr to the other side (modern day Maningrida). We were scared of the Makassans, they gave us tobacco and tea, but they took many of our women.

When those two old people tasted that water at Maningrida from the Djomi spring, it was sweet freshwater and they decided to stay here. People here had no clothes in those time, we were just wearing string morkoi (loin cloths). Seven tribes were here then, but now in Maningrida there are lots more languages.” – Raylene Bonson