Collecting Colour, by Kylie Dunstan

This is Rose.
Rose has a best friend. Her name is Olive.
Their families live in the Top End of the Northern Territory of Australia.
There are lots of pandanus palms here. Pandanus palms have tall, thin trunks with long spiky leaves at the top.

Rose joins her Aboriginal friend Olive on a trip into the bush with her mother and Aunty to collect pandanus and ‘colour’. With them, Olive’s mother Karrang will make baskets, mats and bags. Rose and Olive help to harvest the pandanus and search for the roots and berries that will make the dyes to colour the pandanus. They rest in the middle of the day, finding shade by a river. It’s picnic time. And fishing time. They catch a big barramundi for their dinner. Back at Olive’s house, Rose learns how the berries and roots are prepared to make the colour that will dye the dried pandanus. Later they watch the older women make beautiful baskets and make their own small mats.

Collecting Colour provides a fascinating insight into traditional basket-making from the point of view of a small non-indigenous child. There is a wonderful sense of timelessness about the process, despite the use of a car to traverse the countryside. This is experiential learning in action! The two children are fully involved in searching for and harvesting the leaves, roots and berries that are the purpose of the journey. Collecting Colour is a large format hardcover picture book. Each opening is saturated with colour, the images created with a mixture of collage and paint. Endpapers show a range of colourful baskets and mats. Despite the information contained, this is not a text book. It is a lovely gentle story of the learning process and a small non-indigenous girl’s introduction to an age-old skill. Highly recommended for lower- to mid-primary readers and anyone interested in how pandanus bags are made.

Collecting Colour, Kylie Dunstan
Lothian Books 2008
ISBN: 9780734410221