Roma Nyutjangka Butler from Irrunytju is a weaver belonging to the Pitjantjatjara language and cultural group. She was born in 1959 at Wilo rockhole, on the kanyala (euro kangaroo) tjukurpa track. Roma spent her early years at Ernabella mission in South Australia and then travelled by camel to Warburton in Western Australia, where she went to school and learnt to read and write. Irrunytju is her grandfather’s brother’s country. Roma also works at Minyma Kutjara Arts and with Ngaanyatjarra Media presenting a radio program of local music and news.
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.