Kunmanara Dodd

Margaret Ngilan Dodd

Kunmanara (Ngilan) Dodd was a Pitjantjatjara/Yankunytjatjara woman born at Teeta Bore. She transitioned from living nomadically in her first years to working at Everard Park Station as a young woman, before it was returned to Aṉangu traditional owners. Alongside her husband Sammy, she remained one of the most knowledgeable songkeepers for Mimili community until her passing in 2023.

Nyakupai ngayulu Ernabellala rungkanyangka, tjitjingku. Tjitjingkala nyinangi nyarapalula. Mission stationgka panya, ngananya? Ka ngayulu ngaṟala nyakupai. ‘Nyaaku nyura rungkanyi?’ ‘Wiya maikitjala!’ Ngalta. Ngayulu nyakula nyakula nintiringu rungkalpai alpamiliṟa, tjitjingku. Alpamiliṟa rungkalpai ngayulu munuṉa rungkaṟa kaya ‘Wiṟun rungkaṉi?’ ‘Ai wiṟunyan rungkaṉi maiku palya!’ Ngalta, ngayuku ngunytjungku wangkangu.

When I was a kid, I used to see people spinning at Ernabella. We lived there when I was a child. At the mission station, you know. I would stand there watching and would ask the women ‘Why are you spinning?’, and they would reply ‘For rations!’ Poor things. I would watch them for a long while and I learned to spin by watching and helping. I would help them spin and as I spun they would ask me ‘Do you like spinning?’, and I was like ‘Yeah, it’s OK to spin in exchange for rations!’ My dear mother said that she taught me.

Uwa iriti tjaatatja punu nyangatja. Palu tjana nyanga puṟunypa palyantja wiya. Rungkaṟa karpiṟa ungangi walypala, kaya mai ungangi kaya anangi ngurakutu – nikiti tjuṯa nyinapai, ukara tjuṯa. Ngula ngula ungangi tiritja.

Yeah, so this practice (of spinning) started a long time ago. However, they did not use it to make things like this. They used to spin the fleece and roll it up and give it to whitefellas. They would give them rations in return, and then they’d head back home. This is when the young women were still living naked. It was only later that they (the missionaries) gave them dresses.

Munta uwa ngayulu tjanpingka warkaringi munuṉa tjanpingka warkarira warkarira tjarpangu, nyangawanungkaṉa tjarpangu. Wayaṉa palyani rawangku. Uwa rawangku mulapa. Kulunypa tjuṯa ngayulu tjaatarira palyaningi. Uwa idea ngayulu mantjiningi munu palyaningi alatjiṯu. Ngayulu wuulta palyaningi – rungkaningi. Munuṉa rungkaṟa rungkaṟa tjunangi munuṉa wayaku piṟuku wangkangi, ‘Wayaṉi uwa!’ Ka ‘Waya ngayulu nyuntumpa urani alatjiṯu worry wiya!’ Waya piintjitja panya.

Before starting this project, I had been weaving native grasses and raffia for the longest time. Now I’ve been working with this new medium long enough and mastered it. To start with, I was making small shapes. Getting ideas and trying them out. The youngfellas fetch me the wire and I spin the sheep’s fleece and use the wool to bind the wire tight. I shout out ‘Get me wire!’, and they reply ‘I’m getting you more wire, don’t worry!’ The wire I’m using is from fences.

Inyu nyangatja Adelaidanguṟu. Palu tjiipi panya mulapa nyangaku walytja panya. Iritila kanyiningi, Fregonta itingka. Bore ngaṟanyi. Ngura tjuṯangkaya kanyiningi. Mama ngunytju ngayuku kanyiningiṯu.

This animal fibre here is from Adelaide. But real sheep are familiar to us and this country, because we used to shepherd them here in the old days. We shepherded them near Fregon, where there is a bore.

This exhibition is jointly presented with Mimili Maku Arts.

Ngilan’s work is a visual representation of a generation that went through many epochal changes. Ngilan is the most senior cultural leader in her home of Mimili Community on the APY Lands. She has seen the transition from traditional nomadic life to living and working at the station, to finally being deeply involved in land management and re-envisioning cultural life on the APY Lands.

Over the past two years, she has commenced recording her life’s memories and creating drawings on found materials at the art centre. From the drawings her wall-hung soft sculptures developed: Their core was crafted from found fence wire by Ngilan’s partner Sammy Dodd, whom set these same fences up in his youth working on Everard Park station. By hand-spinning sheep wool, a practice Ngilan learnt as a young girl working at Pukatja Mission, she is reclaiming this technique as her own today, and creating soft sculptures depicting graphic elements from her country and related songlines.

“I love working with my hands, have loved it all my life. As a young girl, I learned to spin wool at Ernabella station. I never moved to the mission, but I would bring in bags of wool and be paid in rations. When the land was returned to Anangu, the stations closed and I stopped spinning. Today I am doing it again, showing the young women how it’s done and telling my own story.”

Kunmanara Dodd MMA
Mimili Maku

Mimili Maku Arts

Mimili Maku Arts is a vibrant contemporary art studio owned and governed by a strong board of Anangu directors. The art centre supports artists across different disciplines such as painting, new media, sculpture and publishing.

Mimili Maku Arts is a place for intergenerational exchange and learning, where Anangu knowledge is celebrated, maintained and lived daily. Being a sustainable business for future generations of Anangu living in community, it is not only a space for artistic excellence but also a tool to support real social change and political advocacy.

Mimili Community lies within the beautiful Everard Ranges, around 500 kilometres south-west of Alice Springs. At one time known as Everard Park, a cattle station, the area was returned to Aboriginal ownership through the 1981 APY Land Rights Act. Today, Mimili is home to about 250 Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara people who refer to themselves as Anangu.


11 Dec 2023 - 10 Jan 2024


All Day


Timeless Textiles Gallery


Timeless Textiles Gallery
90 Hunter Street, Newcastle NSW, Australia