Nangawarra was born on the Ngaanyatjarra lands, Western Australia in the 1950’s. Nangawarra’s mother was a Martu woman living near Jigalong, Western Austtralia, whilst her father was a Ngaanyatjarra man. Subsequently, Nangawarra spent her younger years travelling the country between the two cultural groups. After finishing school, Nangawarra married Mr Ward, a senior Ngaanyatjarra man and cultural custodian for the Warakurna area and together they raised a large family. Nangawarra now lives in Warakurna with her husband and is surrounded by her children and grandchildren.
Nangawarra began basket weaving for Tjanpi Desert Weavers in 2015. Her baskets are characterised by the use of bright coloured raffia and high basket sides, creating a vase-like affect. Nangawarra also sculpts using Tjanpi, and focuses on animal (camels) and machinery (aeroplanes and helicopters) themes.
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. Tjanpi is 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.