A collaborative work between Tjanpi Desert Weavers and Fiona Hall has been included in Fiona Hall’s latest exhibition, Wrong Way Time, at the new Australian Pavilion in this year’s prestigious Venice Biennale.

The work, Kuka Irititja (Animal from Another Time), originally formed part of a larger collaborative project commissioned for the TarraWarra Museum of Art Biennial 2014 for the exhibition, Whisper in my Mask, curated by Natalie King and Djon Mundine.

The idea for the collaboration came about when Fiona started to explore the effects of colonisation. She approached Tjanpi Desert Weavers (who have a history of making animals out of grasses and other materials) and suggested creating artworks based on endangered and extinct animals from the desert region.

In 2014 an artists’ camp was staged at a place near Pilakatilyuru (about thirty kilometres from the community of Wingellina in Western Australia, in the tri-state border region close to South Australia). The women collected local tjanpi (locally harvested wild grasses), while Fiona brought Australian and British military garments. They used each other’s materials as well as incorporating found objects to create Kuka Irititja (Animals from Another Time), inspired by the plight of endangered species.

The 12 Aboriginal artists named as having worked on the project are Roma Butler, Stacia Lewis, Rene Nelson, Takiriya Tjawina Roberts, Angkaliya Nelson, Sandra Peterman, Yangi Yangi Fox, Molly Miller, Nyanu Watson, Rene Kulitja, Niningka Lewis and Mary Pan.

The current exhibition, Wrong Way Time, curated by Linda Michael, confronts global political, financial, and environmental events and issues. It is, in Fiona’s own words, “a minefield of madness, badness, and sadness in equal measure”.

The 56th International Art Exhibition, Venice Biennale 2015 runs until 22 November 2015.

For more on APY artists and the importance of remote communities please read this article written by SA Gallery Director, Nick Mitzevich who recently visited these lands.

Tjanpi (meaning ‘grass’) began as a series of basket-weaving workshops NPY Women’s Council held on the Ngaanyatjarra Lands in 1995. Women spoke up strongly for meaningful employment opportunities in their homelands, to be able to provide for their families. New-found weaving skills were quickly shared with relations on neighbouring communities, and weaving spread. Today, more than 400 women are making baskets and sculptures out of grass and other materials, and working with fibre in this way is now firmly embedded in Western and Central Desert culture. The Tjanpi family extends across 350,000 sq kms, taking in 26 Indigenous communities and is growing all the time.

Tjanpi Desert Weavers is supported by the Ministry for the Arts, Westpac Foundation, Caritas Australia and Country Arts WA. Support for travel to Venice was provided by the Australia Council for the Arts, TarraWarra Museum of Art and Victoria College of the Arts.