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Karen Bird Ngale

Alpar (Rat Tail plant )

Alpar (Rat Tail plant )

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Title: Alpar (Rat Tail plant )
Artist: Karen Bird Ngale
Size: 100 x 60 cm Unframed
Medium: Acrylic on canvas

COA and pictures of the artist holding and signing her work will be provided.


Alpar (Rat Tail plant seed story) being one of her prime ones. In olden times women would collect this seed, crush it and use it in making damper (bread).  

The themes for Karen’s paintings relate to her main stories from her father’s country they include alpar – Rattail Plant, ahakey – Bush Plum and tyankern – Mulga Seed. Karen’s work reflects the designs associated with the many stories surrounding these plants. Karen also paints awelye – women’s ceremonial body paint designs for this story.Designs in this painting predominately represent elements of the Alpar Dreaming Story whereby the dry seeds of alpar play a significant role. In the olden days, the aboriginal women of Ilkawerne country would collect these seeds, sometimes soak them in water until swollen or cooked in hot coals, and then grind them into a powder that was used for making damper (bread). This practice is not as habitual now due to readymade bread, however the story is continually taught to the younger ones and ceremonies are carried out to ensure its productivity.The scented leaves of alpar were also collected, soaked in water and used as a medicinal wash. Alternatively they would be ground into a powder and mixed with animal fats for use as an ointment, making this plant a very important food and medicinal source.

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