Cynthia Burke is an artist belonging to the Ngaanyatjarra language and cultural group. She was born in Alice Springs in 1973. She attended CAPS High school in Coolgardie, WA and went on to Esperance Senior High school. Cynthia now spends her time between Warakurna and Irrunytju Communities in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands of the Wstern Australia.
Cynthia is a keen artist whose creative and arts practice covers a broad range of disciplines. Cynthia was taught weaving skills by her mother, the renowned artist Jean Burke. In 2013 Cynthia contributed weaving and media skills to the Tjilkamarta Minyma Kutjarra Munu Wati Ngirntaka Warta (Two Porcupine Wives and Perentie Man Tree) exhibited in the ‘String Theory’ exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. In 2012 she exhibited fibre art at ‘Fingers and Petals’ exhibition, Ellenbrook Gallery in Perth and regularly makes Tjanpi works presented in shops and galleries throughout Australia.
Cynthia also paints for Warakurna Artists, makes punu (wood sculpture) for Maruku Arts and works for Ngaanyatjarra Media as a camera operator and radio announcer presenting a weekly radio program of local music and news. CB, as the locals affectionately know her, plays a selection of country and gospel music ranging from the 1950’s to 2000’s. Cynthia’s gospel music program ‘Praise’ is broadcast weekly in Ngaanyatjarra language from the Warakurna Community.
Cynthia’s talents also include film and camera operation and she has worked on a number of films. In 2013 Cynthia won the radio broadcasting award at the 15th National Remote Indigenous Media Festival Awards for Best Emerging Radio Talent NG Media and in 2011 Cynthia won the Festival Troy Albert Award for Excellence in cinematography for works presented on ICTV, the Indigenous Community Television station of Australia.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 Womens’ 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 there are over 400 women across 28 communities 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.