Tjanpi Weavers Bring Some Animal Magic To Japingka

4 Naomi Kantjuri Amata (SA) and Maringka Burton Kaltjiti

Tjanpi Desert Weavers with their fibre art woven creatures are sharing the gallery with the Omie Artists and their barkcloths. The tradition from Tjanpi Weavers shares some common features with the New Guinea artists in the way a wide group of communities and artists are using materials from the environment to create images about their surroundings.

Tjanpi artists are collecting the grasses on their desert homelands and creating something new- in this case, they’re creating the animals and birds from their home country. Many of them are very quirky, often using coloured wool as a kind of binding that gives contrast in colour. We look at the wonderful shapes and the expressive qualities of the animals, we see that there are goannas and lizards, emus, birds, dogs, camels, bilbies and kangaroos. There are birds that are like emus standing upright.

These animals are colourful, they’re expressive, they’re part of a fibre art tradition that has been developed in APY and Ngaanyatjarra lands. It is a way for women artists to use the materials found on their homelands, and to come together to make these fantastic woven sculptures. This work also contributes to opportunities to visit country and go back to ceremonial sites as they combine bush trips collecting natural materials with site visits.

The community has been very successful in finding ways to exhibit works across Australia and internationally. Their work is an expression of the joyful quality of life in the desert. We look at a group of these small animal sculptures made from grass fibre and other coloured elements such as wool and other coloured fibres. You can really enjoy the humour and the expressive qualities that the artists put into these works.

Cynthia Burke is an artist who also weaves with the Tjanpi Desert Weavers. The Tjanpi Desert Weavers is a social enterprise of the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (NPY) Women’s CouncilThe project was created to enable women in remote central deserts to earn their own income making fibre art. We spoke with Cynthia when she was in Fremantle recently for the Revealed event.

How long have you been involved with weaving, Cynthia?

I learned it from my Mum. I’ve been involved for years as an adult.

How often do you work on it?

Sometimes at night time or on the weekend. It’s good and some days I weave with other ladies.

What’s it like to see all your work on display like this? How do you feel about it?

I feel good about when I see my weaving and painting.

What’re your favourite things to make weavings of?

Animals are my favourite. I like to do cats or dogs or lizards. Sometimes a camel. Sometimes we do funny faces, smiley faces or sad faces.

Do you laugh at each other’s sculptures?

Yeah, we do.

Can you tell me a bit about the women you weave with, have you always known them?

I’ve always been friends with them. They are people I’ve known my whole life.

Do the younger people get involved?

Yeah. Some younger people, they learn weaving and painting.

As well as weaving you are also an artist. Do you paint regularly?

Yeah. I paint every morning at the Art Centre.

What do you enjoy painting?

I like doing landscapes best.