Tjanpi in Timor-Leste

Weavers in Timor-Leste received a dose of Central Australian inspiration when representatives from Tjanpi Desert Weavers took their story to the nation during NAIDOC week.

On invitation by the Australian Embassy, artist Rene Kulitja and Tjanpi Manager Michelle Young travelled to Dili to showcase the achievement and beauty of the desert weavers’ work and share the way their artistic practice has developed.

For Timorese women, weaving is currently seen as a handicraft and cultural expression. In contrast, Tjanpi has grown their practice to a contemporary art form, and their artists exhibit work around Australia and the world.

Ms Young said the way Tjanpi has positioned itself was of great interest the Timorese women.

“Tjanpi has evolved its arts practice over many years, developing a distinctive and innovative art form and they found that very interesting,” Ms Young said.

“They saw the artistic achievements of Tjanpi as a great example, and I think it planted a seed for those women that doing things differently can have great value.”

During the week, Ms Kulitja and Ms Young took part in several NAIDOC week events in Dili to showcase the Tjanpi story to NGOs, government ministers, and women weavers, before travelling to Maubara to spend time with local weavers in their community.

Ms Young said the experience was “affirming”.

“It reminded us to be mindful of what we have achieved over the years; we’ve done a lot of work in this space that we can be proud of,” she said.

“After twenty plus years we’re a well-oiled machine, and it really highlighted our ability to evolve and adapt our practice and model of working, which I think they found inspiring.”

Tjanpi Desert Weavers is a social enterprise of NPY Women’s Council. They represent more than 400 Aboriginal women in the NPY Lands, enabling them to earn their own income from fibre art.