Atipalku grew up in Pukatja, and studied at the Ernabella School, later becoming a teachers aid. She entered the Ernabella Mission craft room as a young woman becoming adept at weaving, and at the age of seventeen was sent to Mittagong to study weaving at Sturt along with two other young women from the Mission, where she spent several months learning how to weave on a new type of loom.
Atipalku also became adept at batik and now Paints for Ernabella Arts. Atipalku is often involved by the other Ernabella Tjanpi Artists in collaborative works due to her seniority in the commuity, and her long knowlege of fibre arts.
Tjanpi (meaning ‘dry grass’) evolved from a series of basket weaving workshops held 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 directed by an Aboriginal executive. 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.