Biography

Angkaliya was born in 1928 at Miti in the South Australian Pitjantjatjara Lands. When she was small she travelled with her mother to Watarru (her mother’s country). The family spent time at Ernabella mission and cattle station properties exchanging animal skins (dingoes and rabbits) for flour and sugar. She married and lived at Ernabella where she worked in the craft room spinning wool and making rugs. In the 1960’s she moved closer to her traditional homeland when the community of Amata began. Today she lives and works between Nyapari Community and Cave Hill. Angkaliya lived a semi nomadic lifestyle often walking long distances in the desert where traditional knowledge of the country, its water holes and food supplies are vital to survival. She learned from her mother and grandmother the secrets of the land and acquired an intimate understanding of the environment and the ancestral creation stories associated with it.

When Angkaliya was a young girl she learned about traditional foods and their preparation from the older women around her. She gathered foods such as ili (native fig), kampurarpa (desert raisins), tjala (honey ants), maku (witchetty grubs) ngintaka (perentie goanna), tjati (edible lizard) and anumara (edible caterpillars). She also knew about minkulpa (native tobacco) and other plants with medicinal properties. She gathered Irmangka-Irmangka grinding the small sticky leaf of the native eremophila and mixing with emu fat to make a pultice for muscular aches and pains. She learned what seed to collect to grind to a flour to make into small cakes cooked in the hot ashes from the fire. She made wiltjas (simple dwellings – shade structures from branches), yuu (windbreaks), and carved utensils from local trees such as wana (wooden digging stick) and piti (collecting bowls). She read the desert sands for tracks and hunted small animals. She spun hair on a hand made spindle for ceremonial belts and manguri (woven head ring).

Art and craft are still important to Angkaliya and she maintains prolific weaving, artefact production and painting practices. Her camp is scattered with discarded raffia and spinifex from the tjanpi baskets she makes in the evening and during weekends. During the week Angkaliya is a dedicated painter, she is often the first to arrive in the studio and the last to leave, maintaining a slow and rhythmic approach to building up her artworks. In recent years Angkaliya has shifted away from the quirky figurative depictions of animals she was famous for, towards a more abstracted expression of Tjukurpa. The confident underdrawings in her paintings maintain a distinct sense of knowledge and cultural integrity and act as an armature off which she hangs beautiful tracts of colour blended together with her signature painterly marks. In later life she favours large paintings as they allow her to tell a grand story full of intensity and power.