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Yaritji Connelly


Yaritji was born in the bush at Malara Rockhole, the place of Wanambe (watersnake) Tjurkurpa, in the 1940's. Her father's country is Inarki and her mother's place is Aumarapiti. As a young girl she walked to Warbuton mission in Western Australia where she spent some time at school. Her father got homesick for Pipayltjara and he took the family back home.

Yaritji has been an active member of the Tjanpi Desert Weavers project since basket-making skills were first introduced by NPY Womens' Coulcil in 1995. She was among the first weavers to utilise coloured raffia for binding grass coils and early on was well known for producing large baskets of exceptionally fine quaality. She also rejoices in making small intimate works she calls manngu (nests).

Yaritji has been making sculptural work since 2005 and has taken to this new technique with much enthusiasm. She enjoys to make small nuggety camp dogs with curly tails but sometimes also creates animated figures with large staring eyes. She made her first large scale Tjukurra figure, a representative of Ninu the Bandicoot Woman, for WOMADelaide in 2007.

Yaritji is also an accomplished teacher and spokesperson for Tjanpi. She visited Katherine (Northern Territory) to help revive the basket weaving tradition at Minyerri and has taught at numerous workshops, passing her skills on to Anangu and non-Anangu alike.

Tjanpi (meaning 'dry grass') evolved from a series of basket weaving workshops held on the remote communities in the
Western Desert by the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunjatjara Women's Council on 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 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 the 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.

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Aboriginal Art (1063)