Tangki Tjuta- Donkeys by Tjanpi Desert Weavers

Tangki Tjuta – Donkeys
Author/Illustrator: Heidi McKinnon
Published: July 2022
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Readership: Children’s  Picturebook
Rating: ★★★★★
RRP: $19.99

I received a copy of Tangki Tjuta – Donkeys from the publishers for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Fresh, funny and highly original, Tangki Tjuta – Donkeys is an endearing dual language story about how donkeys came to be a rich part of life for one Aboriginal community. Told in Pitjantjatjara and English.

Long, long ago, we didn’t have donkeys. We didn’t have a lot of the things we have today. We didn’t know donkeys existed.
Our people used to walk with their camels and donkeys from Areyonga to Ernabella. They brought their donkeys here, and left them.

Donkeys are malpa wiru, valuable friends and helpers in the families and desert community of Pukatja (Ernabella) in the APY Lands of northern South Australia. People set off on their donkeys for picnics and longer journeys, always returning home safely.

Told in Pitjantjatjara and English and featuring the whimsical, distinctive sculptures that have made Tjanpi Desert Weavers famous, this dual language Australian story offers warm and humorous insights from an Anangu perspective.

Every time I see a dual language picturebook these days I get very excited, especially when the dual language is one of Australia’s First Nations’ languages. It brings a huge part of Australia’s history to the fore and is a great way to share that with younger readers so that they recognise the rich history of the Aboriginal People.

Tangki Tjuta – Donkeys is a fun, humourous story about how donkeys became an integral part of the Pukatja community in northern South Australia. It highlights the relationship between the people and the animals, and how – despite the fact that we now have modern modes of transportation – that history is still important and the animals are still respected.

This gorgeous story is illustrated using photographs of amazing woven sculptures from the Tjanpi Desert Weavers (who’ve also created a stop motion film, Donkey, using these sculptures! You can see a trailer here.) The sculptures are amazing and there are multiple spreads in the book that don’t have any words, which makes it a fantastic opportunity to stop and talk about what’s happening in the photographs with children.

At the end of the book there is also a page of information about the Tjanpi Desert Weavers – which would be great to use in a classroom, or just to read for your own personal information – about how the weaving group came about. It was organised, created and run by women that started as an advocacy group and has grown to encompass far more services over time.

I’ve not quite read/seen a picturebook quite like this one before and I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to read and review it. I look forward to sharing it with my students in the future.

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