Tjanpi Desert Weaver Sculpture: Red and Natural Raffa by Judith Yinyika Chambers
- Artist: Judith Yinyika Chambers
- Location: Warakurna, WA
- Birth Year: c.1958
Judith was born in the bush at a place called Mitika near Jameson Community in 1958. Judith's mother was a well-known Tjanpi artist and painter Carol Maatja Golding. Judith now lives in the remote community of Warakurna, Western Australia.
Judith is an accomplished weaver, making both baskets and fibre sculptures from desert grasses that grow close to her home. She is renowned for her flat sculptural works which tell stories of the Ngaanyatjarra Lands, both historical and contemporary; she also uses the animals from her country as inspiration, including camp dogs, birds, goannas, porcupines and rabbits. Ancestral figures also inspire her work, and Judith's work is very fine and detailed. She also paints and is represented by Warakurna Artists.
Judith first exhibited her fibre artwork in 2007 at Alcaston Gallery in Melbourne, for the Palyaralatju Pirrtja Puru Tjanpi Tjarra Puli Yuliyala: We are making paintings and Tjanpi in Puli Yuliya, a collaborative exhibition with Tjanpi and Warakurna Artists. Judith hs since and continues to have her work included in numerous exhibitions including the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award (NATSIAA) in 2014, multiple Desert Mob exhibitions (2009, 2013, 2016, 2018), and, at Tarnanthi 2019 for her collaborative work Tutjurangara Massacre, made with fellow Tjanpi artist Nancy Jackson. This work, a two-dimensional wall sculpture depicting a massacre of Ngaanyatjarra people in the 1930s near Tutjurangara (Circus Waters), was exhibited at Desert Mob 2018 in Alice Springs and was acquired by a private collector. The work garnered national and international interest and highlighted this little-known atrocity.
Tjanpi (meaning 'dry grass') evolved from a series of basket weaving workshops help on remote communities in the Western Desert by the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunyjatjara Women's Council in 1995. Building on traditions of using fibre for medicinal, ceremonial and daily purposes, women took easily to making coiled baskets. These new-found skills were shared with relations on neighbouring communities and weaving quickly spread. Today over 400 women across 28 communities are making baskets and sculptures out of grass and working with fibre in this way is firmly embedded in Western and Central desert culture. While out collecting desert grasses for their fibre art, women visit sacred sites and traditional homelands, hunt and gather food for their families and teach their children about country.
Tjanpi Desert Weavers is Aboriginal owned and is governed by Aboriginal directors. It is an arts business but also a social enterprise that provides numerous social and cultural benefits and services to weavers and their families. Tjanpi's philosophy is to keep culture strong, maintain links with country and provide meaningful employment to the keepers and teachers of the desert weaving business.