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Tjanpi Desert Weavers

22 August 2013

From left to right: Larke Riemer, Westpac Women’s Markets, welcomes Tjanpi Desert Weavers: Nyurpaya Kaika-Burton, Mary Katakjuku Pan, Niningka Lewis. The ladies were in Sydney for the launch of String Theory at the MCA, Circular Quay, where a piece of the group’s work, an enormous woven sculpture named Minyma Punu Kungkarangkalpa, 2013 (based on the Seven Sisters story), forms part of the MCA exhibition on until October 27, 2013.


In 2010 the Westpac Foundation provided Tjanpi Desert Weavers, which is part of the NPY Women’s Council, with a major grant delivered over three years to develop Tjanpi Desert Weavers as a community based social enterprise.

The enterprise provides culturally appropriate work for indigenous women in remote and isolated areas where the prospects for employment, the ability to earn money to feed and foster strong families, as well as gain skills, are as remote as the places they live in might seem to those of us based in the city.

Using grasses and other fibres, including feathers, raffia and human hair, Tjanpi Desert Weavers produce baskets and sculptural objects which are sold through national retail outlets and galleries, increasingly to collectors and lovers of art.

“I can imagine being inside a corporate office block in bustling Sydney far away from their own country must feel as remote to these ladies as we would on country, and yet we all share in common our stories of community and how we want our young people to thrive,” said Larke, speaking with the ladies at the lunch in Sydney to celebrate the growing fame and success of their work and their skills and the outcomes these have for their families and communities.

Larke also acknowledged the wonderful work of the NPY Women’s Council and the ladies who run and direct it.

Behind the Tjanpi Desert Weavers initiative stands the NPY Aboriginal Women’s Council. Many of the ladies have or hold directorships on this larger autonomously governed body, which has been responsible for instigating major community changes, including the introduction of Opel fuel, odourless petrol, to curb the devastatingly harmful practice of petrol sniffing among indigenous youth.

“Getting to meet the artists and hear their stories was inspirational. These are amazing women of influence doing great things in their communities,” notes Larke.

Below: Left to right Yaritji Young, Mary Pan, Nyurpaya Kaika-Burton, Carlene Thompson, Niningka Lewis, Tjunkaya Tapaya, Ilawanti Ken. Minyma Punu Kungkarangkalpa, 2013. Photo by Jo Foster. Copyright Tjanpi Desert Weavers, NPY Women’s Council.