Friday, 24 August 2012

Artist Profile - Tjawina Roberts

Tjawina Roberts, a Pitjantjatjara artist, was born around 1940 at Kata Yurlu near Blackstone. After her mother died, Tjawina, her sister Karrika Belle Davidson and brother Tjuruparu Watson were brought to the Warburton mission by her family. There she learnt prayers, hymns and Bible stories; to read and write; and to sew and do work in the garden and kitchen. She was also introduced to drawing materials such as pencils, inks, crayons and chalk. During the holidays, especially over the early summer period when rockholes were full of water, Tjawina left the mission with her family to walk back to her country. She was taught how to survive in the desert and the tjukurpa by the minima pampa (old woman). 


Many members of her extended family settled at Patinintjarra, near to where Papulankutja (Blackstone) was later established in the 1980s. When she left school Tjawina moved to Patinintjarra and camped at the edge of the mining camp with other anangu. She spent some time at the government settlement at Musgrove Park, now the community at Amata, married, and had three children Jocelyn, Dino and Renita. Tjawina, her husband and tjitji traveled to Irrunytju where they lived in the camp near the small nickel and chrysoprase mine. Tjawina’s husband worked at the mine for food rations. To supplement the rations and bushfood that they hunted and gathered, Tjawina made punu and traded them for butter, jam and tinned food at the miners shop. Tjawina lives in Irrunytju with her children and grandchildren and extended members of the family. She was a member of the Irrunytju Arts Advisory Committee and Irrunytju Community council. She is a powerful speaker and a great advocate for the art centre and community.

Tjawina still carves punu artefacts which she now trades with the regional cooperative Maraku Arts and Crafts and weaves fine, perfectly shaped tjanpi baskets with spinifex, natural and dyed raffia. In her paintings Tjawina engages with ancient tjukurpa as well as contemporary issues. 

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