Olive (whose bush name is Yalpinyka) was born in the bush near Kanpi, South Australia as her mother, Nellie Duncan, travelled back from Alice Springs to Warburton, Western Australia in 1958. After giving birth, her mother continued walking the rest of the way to Warburton. Olive later went to school in Warburton, where she learnt her second language, English.
With her formal education completed, Olive remained in Warburton with her family, working in the hostel there. She later married and raised five beautiful children, three boys and two girls and passed on to them the knowledge her parents taught her. Olive is now the proud grandmother of numerous grandchildren, who live in nearby Ngaanyatjarra communities.
Olive learnt to weave baskets and sculptures from watching her mother and attending an Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunyjatjara Womens’ Council AGM where a workshop was conducted. She loves to make “baskets, goannas, birds, anything really”. Olive is also a painter and woodworker, spreading her time between the three art forms.
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.
Also known as Frances Lawson