Nellie Tjawina Roberts
Nellie Tjawina Roberts, was born in the bush around 1950 at Kata Yurlu near Blackstone. While she was still a young baby, both of her parents passed away. She was taken in, along with her sister Karrika Belle Davidson (now deceased, painted with Papulankutja Artists) and brother Tjuruparu Watson by the Nuns at the Warburton Mission. She spent all of her childhood at the Mission and it was there that she received her education.
When she was still in school, her brother took her to Pukatja (Ernabella) in South Australia, to be with him and other family members. She didn’t feel very happy there, and soon returned to Warburton. Later on, she moved to Amata (SA) where she met her first husband. Together they had three children, which she raise by herself after her husband left.
During the 1970s, a mine was opened at Irrunytju (Wingellina – 75kms east of Blackstone) community in Western Australian near the SA-WA border. The mine provided many opportunities for work, so Tjawina and her children made the move west. Nellie continues to live in Irrunytju with her family to this day and paints with the Minyma Kutara Arts Project.
Nellie started painting during the early 2000s, soon after the first art centres were opened in the APY Lands, SA and the NG Lands in WA. Until 2019 there was no permanent art centre in Irrunytju, so she was supported by Ninuku Arts in Kalka – just a short distance away over the border in SA. Her paintings often depict her home country, Iljupa, which she paints using bold combinations of colours and dot work.
As well as creating baskets and sculptures for Tjanpi Desert Weavers, Tjawina carves punu for Maruku Arts and Craft. Tjanpi (dry grass) evolved from a series of basket weaving workshops held in remote communities in the Western Desert by the Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council in 1995.
Further Artist Information
Community: Irrunytju (Wingellina) : WA