Pampa Mara Tjanpi

Tjanpi works by elderly women from the Ngaanyatjarra Lands

Sat 7 Nov 2015Sun 10 Jan 2016


Western Australian Museum — Perth

an item being weaved

Tjanpi Desert Weavers is the dynamic social enterprise of the Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara (NPY) Women’s Council. NPY Women’s Council was formed in response to the land rights struggles of the 1970s when women felt that they had no voice and no visibility. Their thought was that as individuals they would not be heard but as a strong and collective group they could have a formidable presence. Since that time NPY Women’s Council has grown from an advocacy service into a major Aboriginal directed and governed organisation delivering a wide range of health, social and cultural services across 26 desert communities on the NPY Lands of Central Australia. NPY Women’s Council’s primary objective is to improve life on the Lands for women and children.

Tjanpi (meaning wild harvested grass) began in 1995 as a series of basket-making workshops facilitated by NPY Women’s Council in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands of WA. Women wanted meaningful and culturally appropriate employment on their homelands so as to better provide for their families. Building upon a long history of using natural fibres to make objects for ceremonial and daily use, women took quickly to coiled basketry and were soon sharing their new found skills with relatives and friends on neighbouring communities. It was not long before they began experimenting with producing sculptural forms. Today there are over 400 women across three states making spectacular contemporary fibre art from locally collected grasses and working with fibre in this way has become a fundamental part of Central and Western Desert culture.

At its core, Tjanpi embodies the energies and rhythms of Country, culture and community. Women regularly come together to collect grass for their fibre art, taking the time to hunt, gather food, visit significant sites, perform inma (cultural song and dance) and teach their children about Country whilst creating an ever evolving array of fibre artworks. The shared stories, skills and experiences of this wide-reaching network of mothers, daughters, aunties, sisters and grandmothers form the bloodline of the desert weaving phenomenon and have fuelled Tjanpi’s rich history of collaborative practice. In 2005 the Tjanpi Toyota, produced by 20 women from Blackstone, won the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award just ten years after the first baskets were made.

Learn more about the Tjanpi Desert Wavers

Photo by Claire Freer

© Tjanpi Desert Weavers, NPY Women’s Council

Getting Here

Western Australian Museum - Perth Map


Perth Cultural Centre,
James Street
Western Australia,


1300 134 081