MR ENTSCH: Waal-Waal Ngallametta transcended incredibly in her lifetime.
She exhibited in her own way the immense contemporary values and contributions that Aboriginal people bring to our world.
It is with the deepest sadness that Waal-Waal passed away on 28 January 2019 in her Aurukun home, on country and surrounded by her family, as she had wished.
Born in the coastal community of the Kugu people around the Kendall River, south of Aurukun, Cape York Peninsula, Mrs Ngallametta—her maiden name was Marbunt—was a senior elder of the Putch clan and a cultural leader of the Wik and Kugu people of Aurukun.
Despite growing up in the harsh reality of the Aurukun Mission dormitory, she maintained close links with her family and was taught traditional weaving and basketry skills by her elders.
Developing as a strong culture woman, she first became acknowledged for her weaving mastery and renowned for her dramatic use of natural colours and asymmetrical creations.
Many of her woven works, some using traditional materials and others using recycled, abandoned driftnets and marine debris, have entered into public and private collections.
In 2008, while attending a workshop at the Wik and Kugu Art Centre, run by Gina Allain, she began painting.
Initially she painted her country in smaller canvases.
In 2011, she started to work on much larger canvases.
It was these vast and astonishingly detailed paintings that forged Mrs Ngallametta’s reputation as one of Australia’s great artists.
Distinguishing features of the different seasons—the bushfires that parch the land at the height of the dry season, the flowers that bloom in the billabongs, the migratory birds that return to Far North Queensland at certain times of the year and the wading birds that populate Aurukun’s shoreline—were depicted in Mrs Ngallametta’s paintings in huge scale.
Painting with traditional ochres and clays that she collected and prepared herself, the works were rich in colour and imagery.
Since 2011, she created a total of 46 monumental paintings.
In 2013, she won the Telstra General Painting Award.
In 2018, she received the Red Ochre Award, the Australia Council’s distinguished award for a lifetime of achievement.
Fittingly, her last two paintings were acquired by the Queensland Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art and the National Gallery of Australia.
Mrs Ngallametta will be the subject of a major retrospective at the Queensland Art Gallery from 28 March to 23 August 2020.
Her unique talent and gentle nature will be sorely missed.
She was a wonderful lady. She was a wonderful icon to Aurukun. She really showcased everything that was very special about the community to which she was born into. She now is resting.