Kathleen Ngala (Ngale) was born in the late 1930’s and still lives not far from her birth place with her husband, Motorbike Paddy. Arlparra is her country from her father’s side and her mother came from Ngwelay, commonly known as Kurajong Bore. Her sisters, Poly Ngala, Maggie Ngala and Angelina Apwerle, also paint.
Kathleen began painting in the early 1980’s, firstly in batik and later in Acrylics. With over eighty other women from the Utopia Region in Central Australia Kathleen was encouraged to paint in Batik initially through a government grant as a way of expressing and preserving the culture of people in the region. The artwork produced after an educational trip to Indonesia was exhibited in a touring exhibition that traveled through the US and Europe.
When painting in acrylic on canvas became established in some of the other communities in the desert many of the Utopia artists began to experiment in the medium and found the ease of application and the range of colours available attractive. The Batik process was labour intensive and had a distinctive odour that the women found unpleasant so Kathleen like the other women swiftly changed mediums.
Her popularity as an artist has grown as her elegant and subtle representation of the “Bush Plum”. Her work has been exhibited in the UK, Ireland, France and the USA and is also featured frequently in Aboriginal Art Auctions.
Though she is not fluent in English, she likes to talk about her story, the Anwekety or ‘Bush Plum’ that features in her paintings. The fruit is used as a food source and as flavouring, the leaves are used for their medicinal properties and even the sharp spikes are used as a treatment for warts. Kathleen Ngala depicts the fruit of the plant in delicate dabs of colour overlapping to create movement and texture.