Narelle Ethel Kanpatja Holland

Portrait of Aboriginal Artist Ethel (Narelle) Kanpatja Holland

Narelle (also known as Ethel) was born in the bush in 1953 near Wanarn at a place where there are two rockholes together called Tjulurn and Mungakatu. She grew up out bush before moving to Warburton and attending the Warburton Mission primary school. Ethel attended high school first at Norseman Mission and later at Esperance Mission School. After her school education, she worked in various places throughout Western Australia as a domestic and childcare worker.

Narelle moved from Mantamaru (Jameson) to Papulankutja (Blackstone) in the 1990s with her two daughters and became involved in NPY Women’s Council activities. She was one of the first staff at the Women’s Centre that was set up by NYPWC to support women in the community and offered a place for them to come together and learn new skills. ‘We used to just go ahead and do it ourselves. At that time I was running the Women’s Centre, I used to hold the key, every day, five days a week. The women were so many, they liked coming and doing anything they can do.’ Ethel was responsible for catering, cooking and supporting the Centre’s Health and Aged Care (HAC) activities.

Papulankutja Artists started at the Women’s Centre growing out of art and craft activities including sewing, batik, purnu and then painting on canvas. This is where Narelle first started to paint (1993). Over time she has also been involved in sewing, making spinifex paper and creating limited edition prints.

There were many happy and productive years for her in Papulankutja before a family tragedy occurred in the community in 2003 and she lost a daughter. Heartbroken she relocated to Mantamaru.

Narelle began working as an arts worker for Papulankutja Artists continuing to paint and supporting the artists who live in Mantamaru, from an office within the women’s centre. Narelle is recognised throughout the Nyaanyatjara Lands and beyond as a pioneer of women’s and arts activities in the region.  

Narelle is a very busy lady, looking after all of her grandsons and being an important member of the Mantamaru community. Now she just enjoys being an artist, taking a step back from working for the art centre. 

Further Artist Information

Community: Mantamaru (Jameson) : WA


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