Born in the bush near Warburton, Western Australia in 1956, Martha (also known by her bush name Yurnupa) spent her early years in this area, travelling around with her parents, from whom she learnt about her Ngaanyatjarra culture, heritage and language. Martha later went to school in the Warburton Mission School, where she learnt her second language, English.
With her formal education completed, Martha married and raised a son and two adopted daughters. Martha also moved to nearby communities of Mantamaru (also known as Jameson) and Tjukurla to work.
Martha was at the first Tjanpi workshop in Papulankutja (Blackstone) in 1995. From this she begun to weave tight, colourful baskets. Since her husband died, Martha likes to surround herself with art, and also paints for Warakurna Artists and makes woodwork animals.
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.