Dorcas Bennett was born in 1956 and is the daughter of Nyurupayia Nampitjinpa ( Mrs Bennett) a senior artist for Papunya Tula Artists. She was born at Wurturu rockhole near Kaltukatjarra (Docker River). After Dorcas was born her mother and father walked to Warburton Mission where she was given her English name by the missionary Will Wade. Dorcas grew up and completed her schooling in the Docker River Settlement. Later she married Ivan Shepherd (deceased) and now lives in Warakurna Community. Reknowned for her hunting skills, especially for goannas, Dorcas loves to be on her country. She learnt weaving from family at Tjukurla community. In particular her aunty Annie Farmer and older sister Pirrmangka Reid who are both well known basket weavers. Dorcas says, ‘I like to do tjanpi work. I used to just make baskets but now I make animals as well. I use the same grass but in a different way. I like to mix up different coloured wools and raffia when I make baskets, like the different colours in the bush’. Of a dog she made in 2007, she said, ‘This papa is Yilpangi from my mother’s country. That white tjukurrpa dog sits down there.’ Dorcas is currently an executive member on the boards of both DesArt and Warakurna artist. Along with being an exceptional and recognised fibre artist Dorcas is also a respected painter having been represented by Warakurna Artists since 2006.
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 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.