Tjanpi Nyawa! captures the country and life of the Tjanpi Desert Weavers artists. It portrays the integration of this more recent artistic expression within desert culture, and shows how collecting tjanpi (grass) provides an opportunity to go hunting, collect bush foods, reconnect with special sites, and perform inma (song and dance).
In 2010 anthropologist and curator Dr Christiane Keller involved the Tjanpi Desert Weavers from Warakurna in a research project investigating the sensory and material aspects of Aboriginal fibre work. The aim was to capture and communicate multi-sensory experiences of fibre-making processes. In April 2011 Dr Keller together with filmmaker Skye Raabe visited the ladies in Warakurna, and Tjanpi arts coordinator Jo Foster with the idea to make a film about the sensory experiences.
The idea was met with great enthusiasm as many women are well versed with the film medium through activities with nearby Ngaanyatjarra Media. In several bush trips and an overnight camp the women started to tell the story about their fibre making. Collaboratively we worked out the content and story for the film. Tjanpi Nyawa! Look at the Grass! of course starts with the collecting of grass and the different species and qualities of grass are discussed. The ladies demonstrate and discuss how they make their art and what are important aspects in the making process. Essentially it is hard work and grass is prickly and hard on their hands as are the needles. Colour plays an important role and is employed expertly to achieve vibrant and contrasting effects. Sculpture making in particular is a communal affair and inspiration for topics is often taken from current issues in the community or ancestral stories related to the sites visited.
During the research the ladies depicted the story of the goanna man and his two wives in a set of three almost life-size grass figures. Several women worked together on one sculpture and the story was reiterated several times during the making process. Fibre workshops are always occasions for sharing skills and knowledge between generations as well as versed and less skilled artists. But they are also occasions for other cultural expressions. Some years ago the Tjanpi ladies from Amata developed an inma, a traditional song and dance about tjanpi fibre making. During the filming in Warakurna the ladies developed their own song and dance, an event of great significance and a legacy that will carry on for a long time. The Warakurna ladies are very proud to have their story told.
Tjanpi Nyawa! was filmed in and around Warakurna WA.
Language: Ngaanyatjarra and Pitjantjatjara with English subtitles.